Louisiana district attorney seeking indictments against State Police in Ronald Greene death
Third District Attorney John Belton said Thursday he will convene a special grand jury to seek indictments against State Police troopers and possibly Union Parish Sheriff's deputies who he believes committed crimes in the violent, fatal arrest of Ronald Greene.
Greene, who was Black, was brutally beaten and died during a State Police arrest in 2019 following a two-parish, high-speed chase that ended in a car crash in Union Parish near Monroe.
"It was the worst thing I've ever seen," Belton said Thursday while testifying before a special Louisiana House of Representatives committee investigating Greene's death and possible ensuing coverup by State Police.
"I believe state and federal crimes were committed, including federal civil rights violations," he said.
Belton said he is initiating prosecution on state charges now because federal justice department officials released him from an earlier commitment to wait until their investigation is complete.
So far nobody has been arrested in connection with Greene's death.
Belton said he spoke to Greene's mother Mona Hardin last week to inform her of his decision to move forward.
"I can't promise an indictment or conviction, but I did promise to Ms. Hardin that I will continue to seek justice for Mr. Greene and his family," he said.
Belton said he originally agreed to set aside his potential prosecution at federal officials' request because they had more resources, but he never recused himself from the case.
He said that decision has so far resulted in a new autopsy that showed Greene didn't die as a result of a car crash following a high speed chase with State Police as troopers first reported and triggered a "statewide" investigation of State Police.
Current State Police Superintendent Lamar Davis also testified Thursday, blaming the media for his agency's image problem following Greene's death and accusing the media of publishing inaccurate stories. He didn't cite specific inaccuracies.
Davis' assertion comes following previous testimony from the agency's own use-of-force expert describing Greene's arrest as "torture and murder" and from a high-ranking officer who said retired former agency head Kevin Reeves was aware of evidence suppression in the case.
Davis' own second in command Lt. Col. Doug Cain is the subject of a current internal affairs investigation in the Greene case regarding a potential coverup.
"We know the integrity of this agency has been compromised," said Democratic Baton Rouge Rep. Edmond Jordan, who was among members of the committee who expressed frustration that Cain hasn't been place on administrative leave.
Belton said in a meeting that included Cain that Cain didn't believe crimes committed by police during the arrest. "We disagreed," Belton said.
The district attorney said U.S. Attorney Brandon Brown has agreed to share all of the justice department's evidence with Belton and his office.
Belton said he will convene the grand jury as soon as he has secured all of the evidence, assuring the committee he is "moving swiftly."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.