UPDATE: MONROE, La. — According to the Monroe Police Department, Louisiana State Police Trooper Christopher Hollingsworth has passed away due to the injuries he received in a vehicle crash on Monday.
Monroe Police say that the single-vehicle crash happened near the Bastrop/Columbia exit on I-20 East shortly before 3 AM on Monday, September 21, 2020.
We will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana state trooper under federal investigation for his role in the in-custody death of a Black man last year was critically injured early Monday in a single-vehicle crash.
Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth had been placed on paid leave Sept. 9 amid growing fallout — including state and federal investigations — from the May 2019 death of Ronald Greene following a high-speed chase near Monroe.
State Police had been considering disciplinary action against Hollingsworth but have repeatedly declined to release body-camera footage or other records of Greene’s arrest.
The controversy deepened last week when Greene’s family released graphic photographs showing deep bruises and cuts to his face that raised questions about whether Greene received those injuries in a car crash — as authorities initially told his family — or when troopers arrested him following the police pursuit.
Greene’s family has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit alleging troopers “brutalized” Greene, used a stun gun on him three times and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death.
State Police have said only that the 49-year-old Greene died “after resisting arrest and a struggle with troopers” who took him into custody. The agency opened an internal investigation into the case last month.
Greene’s death also remains the subject of a civil rights investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department.
A crash report obtained by The Associated Press says Greene failed to stop for an unspecified traffic violation and later drove off the road and into a ditch, striking a mailbox, a culvert and a “shrub/tree.” The report does not mention any use of force by troopers.
Hollingsworth’s attorney has declined to comment on the case.
Col. Kevin Reeves, the State Police superintendent, asked rank-and-file troopers to pray for Hollingsworth, who was listed in critical condition at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport.
Reeves wrote a note to troopers Monday, obtained by AP, saying Hollingsworth “was involved in a serious injury crash while off-duty in his personal vehicle.”
Other details about the crash were not immediately available. State Police referred questions to the Monroe Police Department, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Hollingsworth had been placed on leave the same day the AP filed a records request for body camera footage of Greene’s arrest.
State Police brass had convened with the agency’s general counsel in Baton Rouge on Friday to discuss whether Hollingsworth had violated the agency’s use-of-force policy, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
UPDATE: BATON ROUGE, La. (09/182020) — A Louisiana State Police Trooper who was involved in the 2019 death of Ronald Greene has been placed on leave, according to the WBRZ Investigative Unit.
Sources at Louisiana State Police confirmed to WBRZ that Trooper Chris Hollingsworth was placed on leave two weeks ago for the May 2019 incident. State Police refused to answer questions about what prompted him to be placed on leave now.
On Friday, the ACLU of Louisiana condemened the “apparent cover-up by the Louisiana State Police” regarding the death of Greene.
They issued the following statement:
“We are deeply alarmed by what appears to be an 17-month-long cover-up by the Louisiana State Police and an intentional effort to deceive Ronald Greene’s family about the circumstances of his death,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “Once again, a Black man’s family is grieving because of the actions of police officers who have never been held accountable. The fact that Ronald Greene’s family is still waiting for answers more than a year after his death is a tragic and unacceptable miscarriage of justice that needs to be addressed now. This is especially concerning given that LSP is often charged with investigating allegations of excessive force and misconduct by local police departments. LSP must immediately release all body camera footage of the incident as well as the names of the officers involved.”
ORIGINAL: BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating the death of a Black man during what Louisiana State Police described as a struggle to take him into custody following a rural police chase last year, officials told The Associated Press.
The death of 49-year-old Ronald Greene remains shrouded in secrecy because State Police have declined to release body-camera footage related to the May 2019 chase north of Monroe, Louisiana. Troopers say it began when Greene failed to stop for an unspecified traffic violation.
Greene’s death drew new attention after his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit this year alleging state troopers “brutalized” Greene and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death.
Greene’s family said authorities initially claimed Greene died after crashing into a tree but omitted what State Police now acknowledge was the “struggle” preceding his death. The lawsuit, drawing on witness accounts, alleges officers pinned Greene to the ground and used a stun gun on him even after he apologized for leading them on a chase.
Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, said her family has not been able to grieve because so many questions remain unresolved. She said her son had been a well-liked barber who lived in West Monroe and had a “giving spirit.”
“This has gutted our family,” Hardin told AP. “How do people live with themselves after doing something like this?”
The investigation comes amid heightened racial tensions within Louisiana State Police, an agency that has been plagued by misconduct cases in recent years. Earlier this month, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said it was “unacceptable” that State Police had failed to discipline a trooper recorded using a racial slur on duty.
The handling of Greene’s death has eroded the agency’s credibility even further, said Eugene W. Collins, president of the Baton Rouge branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“The public has a right to know what happened to Mr. Greene that day,” he said, “and the concealing of this information by the Louisiana State Police is not only disgusting but immoral.”
State Police spokesman Capt. Chavez Cammon said the agency is “cooperating with federal officials” even as it conducts its own internal investigation.
Two law enforcement officials familiar with the case said State Police are investigating whether one of the responding troopers improperly turned off his body camera during Greene’s arrest. They spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Edwards “is aware of the investigation and expects that there will be a comprehensive and fair evaluation of the facts,” spokeswoman Shauna Sanford wrote in an email. “He has not seen the video.”
Greene’s death was ruled accidental and attributed to cardiac arrest, said Renee Smith, the Union Parish coroner who was not in office when that determination was made. Smith said her office’s file on Greene attributed his death to a car crash and makes no mention of a struggle with State Police.
“The physical evidence we’ve been able to review is inconsistent with the manner of death that they’ve described,” said Lee Merritt, a prominent civil rights lawyer representing Greene’s family.
Local prosecutors did not bring charges against the responding troopers but referred Greene’s death to the U.S. Justice Department for a civil rights investigation, said Laurie James, first assistant district attorney in Union Parish.
Asked for his reaction to footage of Greene’s death, John Belton, the Union Parish district attorney, said it would be “inappropriate for me to comment because of the ongoing federal investigation.”
The FBI declined to comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport confirmed the federal investigation into Greene’s death but declined further comment.
State Police have released few details about Greene’s death. A crash report says troopers attempted to pull him over for an unspecified traffic violation shortly after midnight May 10, 2019, about 30 miles south of the Arkansas state line. Greene “refused to stop,” the report says, and “a pursuit ensued.”
A single-page police report released by State Police says the chase ended when Greene crashed his vehicle.
“Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with Troopers,” the report says, adding that he “became unresponsive” and died on the way to a local hospital. The report doesn’t describe any use of force by troopers.
Greene’s family contends the crash was not serious enough to account for his fatal injuries. Their lawsuit says his vehicle “did not make impact with a tree and his airbag did not deploy.”
Greene “was not injured and could walk, speak and otherwise function in a healthy manner after the crash,” the lawsuit says, adding an autopsy found cuts and “blunt-force injuries” to Greene’s head and face.
“Obviously the body cam footage is critical,” said Mark Maguire, a Philadelphia attorney also representing Greene’s family.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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