BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – Three years ago, Ronald Greene died while in police custody, and his death remains under investigation.
After his death, Greene’s family was told he passed away in a car crash after a high-speed chase, but body camera footage of Louisiana State Police Troopers revealed a different cause of death.
The footage appeared to show troopers beating Greene.
Lawmakers met on the morning of Wednesday, May 11 to review the investigation into Greene’s death.
As of 10:30 a.m., the Special Committee to Inquire into the Circumstances and Investigation of the Death of Ronald Greene was in the process of discussing legislative subpoena power and contempt in the death of Ronald Greene.
The Committee began questioning the now-retired Lt Col Layne Barnum about Greene’s death and his knowledge of the circumstances.
The majority of Barnum’s answers to questions posed by lawmakers were that he did not know of the circumstances nor did he hear anything about Greene’s death being discussed.
At one point, Rep. Marcelle asked Barnum what he did while working for Louisiana State Police.
Barnum explained that he was over the Support Division, which included the fact that he was over the body camera footage.
Marcelle asked if he would know who had access to body cam footage and who viewed it.
Barnum replied that at one point, someone was concerned that information was being leaked and that, for this reason, he needed to lock the body cam footage. Once locked, the footage could not be opened without special request, unless it was a global administrator who needed to view the footage. This was even if an investigation into excessive use of force was occurring.
Rep. Magee confirmed that Barnum also locked up the corresponding crash report, preventing anyone from viewing it.
Shortly after this, Rep. Magee asked Barnum what the procedure was for State Police in the case of crash reports.
Barnum said he was not aware of a certain procedure.
The Committee next questioned Lt. Col Adam White, former Deputy Superintendent over the Bureau of Investigations.
White said he became aware of Greene’s death on May 10, 2019 and within two weeks of the incident, he viewed body cam footage from the incident.
When asked what his initial reaction to the video was, White said, “Shocking to the senses. To the public it would be astonishing.”
Rep. Marcelle asked White when he retired, and he responded that he retired the week before Christmas in 2020.
She pointed out that he viewed the body cam footage within weeks of the incident, and asked, “Who viewed that with you?”
He relied, “I’m not sure, but I think Col Reeves, Bob Brown, myself, Mike (last name unclear.).”
When questioned further, he added that everyone who was with him watching the video was shocked and that after viewing it, his next step was to gather additional evidence pertaining to the investigation.
Marcelle asked if this included obtaining the crash report.
White replied that this was not necessarily the case, and that State Police have a standard protocol that includes interviewing all witnesses, writing reports, and then obtaining additional reports as best they can, before sending all of this information to the District Attorney.
He said that Hollingsworth, now deceased, was the trooper who appeared to have been the instigator in this situation.
White characterized Hollingsworth behavior as a “mistake.”
White also said that shocking, vulgar language was used in the video and that officers often do this to gain control of a situation.
Marcelle countered that using vulgar language might not deescalate a situation or convince a suspect to comply.
Rep. Nelson said that Scott Brown claimed he was told not to turn over any evidence to the DA and that he said, “No one in my chain of command never wanted anything done.”
White said that was speculation and that Brown’s statement was not true as it is the protocol of State Police to turn over all evidence.
The next individual to be questioned was Major Jay Oliphant and Rep. Villio asked if he was aware of a conflict of information in the chain of command, in other words, officials said Greene died as a result of a crash but there was no consistent information to prove this.
She asked, “Did that ever strike you as inconsistent.”
Oliphant replied that he was not aware of inconsistencies.
Rep. Villio asked if he was aware that officials arranged to hide evidence related to Greene’s death.
Oliphant said he was not.
Rep. Villio brought out that on May 10 Col Reeves sends a text to the Governor regarding the in custody death of an individual following a violent struggle, because this was protocol.
She went on to say that later that night, an autopsy reported that Greene suffered injuries that didn’t correspond with the supposed cause of death, a crash.
She asked, “Have you seen the videos from this incident?”
Oliphant replied, “I’m sure I have.”
“Do you know of a worse case than this?” she asked.
“Yes,” Oliphant said.
She then asked if Oliphant thought to ask for body cam video right after the incident. He said that he did not.
She asked why there is a protocol to notify the Governor right after an incident like this, but no one in senior command was even discussing Greene’s death.
Oliphant admitted that there was some discussion about it, but the conversations stopped when the incident went to Investigations.
“So, y’all just stopped talking about it after it went to investigations?” Villio asked.
“Well, there was no activity regarding the Ronald Greene matter,” Oliphant replied. “No discussion, no briefing. And normally we will get briefings when there is new activity.”
Oliphant also mentioned that he left Louisiana State Police in January of 2021 and at some point, there was an expanded investigation by the new staff.
Rep. Villio asked how Oliphant believed Greene died.
“It’s my opinion,” Oliphant replied, “that he died from injuries sustained from the incident whether it was the fatal crash and the ruptured aorta. I’m not sure if that’s what the autopsy reports indicates. But I do believe that’s what caused his death.”
“The crash?” Villio asked.
“From the incident,” Oliphant replied.
“When you say “incident” do you mean the crash or the beating?” Villio asked.
“The beating,” Oliphant said.
Upon further questioning, Oliphant explained, “There have been times when a crash will occur and someone will die within several days after the crash and it’s worked as a traffic fatality. John Peters actually contacted me and mentioned some information regarding ruptured aortas and side impact… and I forwarded it to legal for their review… but what one thing I don’t want to get into is determining manner of death. That is for the coroner.”
Villio then pointed out that the coroner’s report said Greene’s injuries were inconsistent with a motor vehicle crash.
As Oliphant continued to reply to questions by saying, “I do not recall” or mentioning that a task was not his responsibility, Villio became visibly frustrated and said, “I yield.”
Rep. Marcelle said that certain aspects of the crash report related to Greene’s death were not obtained. She then asked, what Oliphant would do if he saw that not all of the necessary documents had been produced.
Oliphant said, “As a Lt. Col, all of that information if it’s an in-custody death, if it’s a fatality crash, it goes to Criminal Investigations.”
Oliphant said he viewed all of the body cam videos except for Clary’s and that he felt it was shocking or terrible.
Marcelle pointed out that Oliphant said he kept a journal and asked if he wouldn’t have written about the shocking video in his journal.
He didn’t indicate that he had.
“Any reports of officer-involved incidents, do y’all keep a record of those?”
He replied that he would think so, but he is not privy to that kind of information.
Oliphant went on to say that after watching the videos of the beating it was recommended that the case go to Criminal Investigations.
Marcelle said Scott Davis told lawmakers he tried to hand over related information and none of his superiors wanted it.
Oliphant disagreed and said he wanted information related to the case.
Marcelle said, “It’s kind of amazing to us that everyone who was surrounded in the top of Ronald Greene’s death has abruptly retired or promoted.”
Oliphant said he decided to retire upon learning that Col Reeves was retiring.
After Major Oliphant’s questioning was completed, Calvin Braxton, Former Member of the Louisiana State Police Commission was questioned.
Rep. Villio asked Braxton if he was angry after he learned about the cover-up of Ronald Greene’s death. He replied that he was and that he spoke with someone named “Val” at the Governor’s Office regarding what he’d learned.
He said Val passed his information along regarding the cover up, but said that she would first vet it herself to see if there was any truth to it.
Three or four days later, he said Val called Braxton back and said she found his suspicions of a cover-up to be true and that Col Reeves was on his way to the Governor’s mansion.
Braxton said he’s spent over $200,000 of his own money to fight for justice in the case and added, “The Louisiana State Police… what happened to me happened to me, but they do good work. A lot of them that was involved in my case is gone.”
|After this, the Special Committee adjourned.|