Body camera footage was leaked last month showing the brutal, fatal beating of Ronald Greene by Louisiana State Police officers. Now, two years after the incident originally took place, the attorney for Greene’s family says federal investigators have launched an investigation into a potential pattern of racism in the department.
According to NOLA, attorney Lee Merritt said that federal investigators briefed Greene’s family about a probe being launched into a potential pattern of racially biased police violence. Attorneys for Aaron Bowman, a Black man who was struck 18 times during a separate encounter with state police only weeks after Greene’s death, have also said they received a similar briefing from federal investigators.
“The original investigation of Ronald Greene mushroomed into a larger investigation of the entire agency: policies, practices, procedures, incidents, leadership,” Merritt told NOLA. “It’s a wide-ranging investigation.” Merritt added that investigators told the family they expect to convene a grand jury to pursue charges against the officers involved in Greene’s death, but they didn’t give a timetable on when that would happen.
In May 2019, Greene died after leading Louisiana State troopers on a high-speed pursuit. The officers involved initially said that Greene died after crashing into a tree in their original report. They then revised their story, saying that Greene got into an altercation with officers and died on his way to the hospital. It wasn’t until body camera footage leaked last month that the true circumstances of Greene’s death came to light, with officers seen choking, striking, and continually brutalizing Greene over the course of 46 minutes. The inconsistencies in the initial reporting of Greene’s death and the autopsy has led to concerns about a large-scale cover-up.
Bowman filed a lawsuit against the state police after learning of Greene’s case. He received a fractured arm, broken ribs, and stitches on his head as a result of his encounter with state police. Bowman will soon be able to see the body camera footage of his encounter and a criminal investigation has led to one of the troopers involved, Jacob Brown, being arrested.
The federal investigation being launched into the department seems to be a “pattern or practice” probe, which were introduced as part of a 1994 crime bill and have led to court-mandated police reforms in cities such as Los Angeles and New Orleans. While these investigations were largely dormant during the Trump administration, they have quickly restarted under the Biden administration.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has launched practice or pattern investigations into the Louisville Metro Police department due to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, and another into the Minneapolis Police Department as result of the murder of George Floyd.
Word of a possible federal civil investigation follows an Associated Press report this month describing yet another inquiry: a secret internal review of body camera footage from a dozen or more Troop F troopers. That review reportedly will address allegations that some troopers hid or mislabeled body camera footage to avoid detection and discipline in Greene’s case and others.
Four former Troop F members already face state felony counts over violent incidents in the northeast corner of the state, not including Greene’s death.
With about 66 members, the overwhelmingly White troop patrols a 12-parish region where about 40% of the population is Black.
Ron Haley, an attorney for Bowman, said federal prosecutors told Bowman they plan to bring his case before a grand jury by the end of summer.
Haley said the broader investigation that the feds described seems to meet the criteria for a pattern-or-practice investigation — “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” he said. But Haley, like Merritt, said DOJ officials never uttered that term.
As of now the FBI has only confirmed an ongoing criminal investigation into the Troop F officers who were involved in Greene’s death and repeatedly struck Bowman. Captain Nick Manal has also said that he has “no information” on if a federal pattern or practice investigation has been launched into the department. Should such an investigation be underway, it’s likely the findings and potential consequences won’t be released to the public for a few years.