Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards knew a Black motorist died in police custody in May 2019, hours after it happened, but remained quiet during his reelection campaign as troopers told a different narrative
- In May 2019, Ronald Greene, a Black man, died following a struggle with
- Police initially said Greene died in a car crash, but bodycam footage showed he was beaten.
Using information obtained through a public information request, the AP reported that on the morning of May 10, 2019, hours after Greene's death, former Louisiana State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves texted Edwards about the incident.
"Good morning. An FYI," the message read. "Early this morning, troopers attempted to stop a vehicle in Ouachita Parish. The driver fled thru two parishes in excess of 110 mph, eventually crashing. Troopers attempted to place the driver under arrest. But, a violent, lengthy struggle took place. After some time struggling with the suspect, troopers were joined by a Union Parish deputy and were able to take the suspect into custody. ... The suspect remained combative but became unresponsive shortly before EMS arrived."
The AP reported that while the text indicated a "struggle," the coroner's report only said Greene died in a car crash.
Edwards, a centrist Democrat in a majority Republican state, did not speak about the case as he sought reelection in 2019.
It wasn't until May 2021, after the bodycam footage was released, that Edwards condemned the troopers. The governor had previously shot down calls in 2020 to release the footage, even after Greene's family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in May 2020, which said the front of Greene's car had no sign that it struck anything and that the airbags did not deploy, The New York Times reported.
Even after condemning the troopers, Edwards on occasion also downplayed their actions, the AP reported.
"Did he die from injuries sustained in the accident?" Edwards said in a radio interview in September, according to the AP. "Obviously he didn't die in the accident itself because he was still alive when the troopers were engaging with him. But what was the cause of death? I don't know that that was falsely portrayed."
Joshua Stockley, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana Monroe told the AP that Edwards' silence may have been politically motivated. Edwards who was running a tight race needed the support of the Black community and law enforcement. Stockley told the AP that Greene's case and the bodycam footage would have impacted both of those groups.
"I find it hard to believe that the release of this video during the election would not have had a profound consequence," Stockley told the AP. "It would have been enormous."
Edwards' office did not respond to Insider's email request for comment at the time of publication.
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