After several recent Black Lives Matter protests in Baton Rouge, activists and attorneys took their demands to the highest levels of state government, meeting with legislators and calling for the governor to demand more transparency from Louisiana State Police following recent revelations about the death of a Black suspect during a confrontation with troopers.

"We've been asking the tough questions and the answers aren't coming fast enough for us," said state Rep. Ted James, one of several members of the Legislative Black Caucus who joined the group of activists that gathered on the Capitol steps for a news conference late Wednesday afternoon.

One of their biggest demands was the immediate release of all bodycam and dashcam footage of the deadly incident.

Ronald Greene died last year in State Police custody, and troopers initially blamed his death on injuries sustained during a crash following a police chase in Monroe. His family has disputed that account in a civil suit alleging Greene was beaten to death. Federal investigators have opened a civil rights probe.

A recording of bodycam audio, which was leaked to The Associated Press and later obtained by The Advocate, reveals a trooper talking about beating and choking Greene until "all of a sudden he just went limp." But the agency still has not released a more complete account of what happened, or the video footage to back it up.

The trooper in the recording is Chris Hollingsworth, according to the AP. Hollingsworth died last month in a single-vehicle crash just hours after learning he would be fired for his role in Greene's death.

That was one of several incidents involving State Police highlighted during the news conference. Eugene Collins, president of the local NAACP branch, also mentioned the recent grand jury indictment of a trooper accused of shooting a fleeing unarmed teenager during a 2018 traffic stop in Baton Rouge. Trooper Kasha Domingue faces counts of aggravated second-degree battery and illegal use of a weapon.

The Domingue indictment came about a month after State Police admitted the agency failed to adequately discipline a different trooper who called his colleague the N-word.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said then he was appalled at the "disgusting language" and that such behavior should not be tolerated.

Protesters want him to take a similar stance in response to Greene's death.

What good is a Democratic governor who won't stand up for his Black constituents, asked Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers. "Black folks didn't elect you to be an impediment to justice," he said. "We elected you to tip the scales of justice in our favor." 

Greene's relatives along with their attorneys met with state legislators ahead of the news conference. 

"What happened should have never happened," said his mother, Mona Hardin. "This is a fight. We've come this far and we will continue. … You can't just turn your head."

Attorney Ron Haley said the impending arrival of Hurricane Delta along the Louisiana coast this week is not the only storm on the horizon: "Make no mistake, there's a hurricane of racial reckoning at the shores of our great state."

The group also demanded the resignation of State Police Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves, who was appointed to head the agency in 2017 after his predecessor Col. Mike Edmonson abruptly stepped down amid allegations he was misusing public funds and abusing his power. Not long after Reeves took the reins, the state legislature carved out an exception in Louisiana's nepotism laws to allow his son Kaleb Reeves, a newly minted trooper, to remain with the agency despite his father's position.

Kaleb Reeves is now under investigation after he rear-ended another car while responding to a call in Monroe last week, leaving the child and teen back seat passengers dead from injuries sustained in the crash. State Police have not released any details on what caused the crash or whether Kaleb Reeves was at fault.


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.