Louisiana Police Death Federal Probe

FILE - This undated file photo provided by his family in September 2020 shows Ronald A. Greene. A Louisiana state trooper has been critically injured in a single-vehicle crash hours after learning he faced firing for his role in the in-custody death of Greene in 2019. (Family photo via AP, File)

There is no excuse for a Louisiana State Police trooper to use foul language in the course of doing or discussing his or her job. More disturbing is hearing a trooper claim to beat the life out of someone. Yet a short audio clip indicates that happened.

Reporter Jim Mustian, of The Associated Press, obtained a 27-second audio clip of Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth saying “I beat the ever-living f*** out of him,” referencing the controversial and questionable May 2019 death of Ronald Greene in Union Parish.

“Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” Hollingsworth said in audio AP obtained through an intermediary, with confirmation from two law enforcement sources. Apparently, he was talking with a colleague. “We finally got him in handcuffs when a third man got there, and the son of a b**** was still fighting him, was still wrestling with him trying to hold him down,” he said. “He was spitting blood everywhere and all of a sudden he just went limp.”

This is most disturbing, especially since State Police didn’t open an investigation until August and early reports were clearly inaccurate, leading us to question their veracity and transparency. Unfortunately, Hollingsworth died in a single-car crash off of I-20 hours after finding out that he was going to be fired.

The initial report did not indicate any confrontation with Greene, and officials told his family that his injuries were the result of him hitting a “shrub/tree” after he led them on a lengthy car chase about an unspecified traffic violation. That didn’t satisfy Greene’s family. Just recently, they released photographs of Greene and his car. The idea of a car crash as the cause of Greene’s death took a hit because the photographs show Greene had facial bruises and scalp cuts and his vehicle had minor damage.

Gov. John Bel Edwards refused to comment until a State Police investigation ends. District Attorney John Belton, of the 3rd Judicial District in northern Louisiana, declined to comment. The FBI and other agencies are investigating.

Public confidence is declining, rapidly, as bits and pieces of information continue to poke holes in the State Police story about what happened. Greene’s family filed a lawsuit, saying among other things that State Police did not mention a struggle between Greene and some of the six troopers on the scene, that his vehicle’s airbag did not deploy and that Greene not only walked away from the crash uninjured but apologized for the chase. Whether any of that is true can be confirmed with the release of the body cam video footage.

Greene’s family has been joined by Monroe-area community activists, the Louisiana NAACP and national civil rights advocates calling for the release of the footage. We advocated for that, too.

The trooper audio makes what is already a bad situation even worse. No matter the status of the investigation, the State Police, and officials, owe the public the transparency that can only come with viewing of the footage.