Baton Rouge, Louisiana (AP) —Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, a bright red state Democrat, was absorbed in a difficult reelection campaign when he received a text message from the head of state police. The “violent and long struggle” with a black driver ended with the death of a man.
Edwards was informed of the death of Ronald Green within hours of his May 2019 arrest, according to a text message obtained by the Associated Press through a request for public records. Still, the governor was silent as police told the victim’s family, and in an official report, a very different story that Green died in a crash after a high-speed chase.
Edwards has been openly silent about inconsistent accounts and possible concealment for two years, and AP has obtained and released a long-held body camera footage showing what really happened: A white soldier shook the green with a stun gun, hit his face, and dragged him with his ankle shackles while he mourned for mercy. I’m scared! I’m scared! “
The governor refused to request repeated interviews, and his spokesman did not say whatever Edwards did immediately after Green’s death. “The governor does not direct disciplinary action or criminal investigations, and it is not appropriate for him to do so,” said spokesman Christina Stevens.
What the governor knew, when he knew it, and what he did, became a problem in the federal civil rights investigation of a deadly encounter, and police brass took the judiciary to protect the soldiers who arrested Green. Whether it interfered.
“The question is when did he find the truth?” Senator Cleo Fields was Baton, vice chairman of the legislative committee created last year to delve into excessive force complaints by state police. He said he was a member of the Rouge Democratic Party.
In recent months, the FBI has asked people about Edwards’ perceptions of various aspects of the case, according to law enforcement officials who discussed the investigation on condition of anonymity. Investigators have partially focused on influential lawmakers, saying the governor has downplayed the need for legislative investigations.
A spokesperson for the governor said he was not under investigation and was not a member of his staff.
Edwards remained silent about the Green case through a 2019 reelection campaign and a summer 2020 protest over racial injustice triggered by the murder of George Floyd. Even after Green’s family filed a tort proceeding Turned attention to the case In late 2020, Edwards refused to characterize the behavior of soldiers and call for the release of body camera videos because of concerns about not interfering with federal investigations.
But when the AP gets it and publishes it Video that has been withheld for a long time Edwards finally raised his voice about the encounter that left the green bloody and sluggish on a dark road near Monroe.
Edwards blamed the soldiers and called their actions “very unprofessional and incredibly disturbing.”
“I am disappointed with them and the officers who did not intervene,” the governor said in a statement. He later called the soldier’s actions “criminals.”
However, Edwards, a long-term family lawyer for Louisiana Sheriffs, has also commented that since the video was released, he has downplayed Trooper’s actions and replayed the story that Green may have been killed in a car accident. I am.
“Did he die because he was injured in an accident?” Edwards said in response to a question on a radio show in September. “Obviously he didn’t die in the accident itself, because he was still alive when the soldiers were involved with him. But what was the cause of death? That was misrepresented. I don’t know. “
A few weeks after those remarks, a re-examined autopsy commissioned by the FBI Rejected crash theory Completely attributed Green’s death to a “physical struggle,” soldiers repeatedly surprised him, hit his head, and long restrained Green’s use of cocaine.
Federal investigators are interested in a conversation last June between Edwards and Clay Schexnayder, the powerful Republican Speaker of the House, who was considering a legislative investigation into the Green case after the video was released. ..
Schexnayder said this week that the governor told him that “Green died in a wreck” and no further action from Congress was needed. Speakers said they never proceeded with the investigation to avoid interfering with the federal investigation.
A spokesperson for the governor acknowledged that he had explained to legislative leaders about “understanding the Green Survey,” and said his remarks were in line with his official statement. The US Department of Justice declined to comment.
“It’s time to know what happened, who knew what when, and if someone hid it,” Schexnayder told AP. “The Greens deserve to know the truth.”
Edwards received textual news of the Green incident from then-Louisiana police officer Kevin Reeves at 10 am on May 10, 2019, about nine hours after his fatal arrest.
I read the message, “Good morning. For reference.” “Early this morning, soldiers tried to stop the vehicle in Wasita Parish. The driver fled through two parishes over 110 mph and eventually crashed. Trooper tried to arrest the driver. However, a violent and long struggle arose. After some struggle with the suspect, the soldiers joined the Union Parish’s deputy and were able to detain the suspect …. the suspect continued to fight. However, it became unresponsive shortly before the EMS arrived. “
The explanation given to Edwards, which his spokesman called a “standard notice,” was very different from what Green’s family said was being said by soldiers at about the same time-the 49-year-old car. Died in a collision crashes at the end of the chase. A coroner’s report that day showed that Green was killed in a car accident, and state police crash reports did not mention soldiers using his power.
Reeves finished his text by telling the governor that the man’s death was under investigation.
“Thank you,” Edwards replied.
These words were one of the few statements from Edwards himself issued in response to a request for widespread public records filed by AP in June on materials related to Green’s death. The Governor’s Office has not released a message from Edwards to his staff and has not yet fully responded to another December request for his text with the three Supreme Police Officers.
Hundreds of other emails and text messages published by the Governor’s Office were posted while he was openly away from the incident. problem Of the state Police violence, His staff was more actively involved behind the scenes, and his best lawyer repeatedly contacted state and federal prosecutors about the Green case.
Alexander Van Hook, who oversaw the civil rights investigation into Green’s death in Shreveport until December, said the governor had no attempt to influence the investigation in November. “If so, it didn’t work for us,” Van Hook told AP.
Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Edwards was obliged to follow up at least to the head of state police after being informed of Green’s death.
“When something goes wrong … he was shocked. Behind the scenes he is closely involved in controlling the message and trying to distort it from the public,” Laundry said. ..
Meanwhile, state police recently admitted that the ministry “disinfected” Reeves’ cell phone and deliberately erased the message after him. Sudden retirement In 2020 in AP’s first report on Green’s death. Authorities said they had done the same on the phone of another former police commander. Mike Noel, He resigned from the regulatory position last year because a member of the Diet was supposed to ask him about the case. Police said such erasure was a policy.
According to Edwards’ office, the Governor first learned of “Mr. Green’s death allegations” in September 2020. In the same month, a state senator sent Edwards lawyers copies of several Green family tort proceedings. A few months ago.
No one has been charged with crime for Green’s death, and only one of the soldiers involved in his arrest has been dismissed. Master True Park Lishollingsworth was recorded as “defeating f — to live forever” on Green. Died in a car accident Immediately after he learned to lose his job in 2020.
After early October 2020 AP has released the audio of Hollingsworth’s comment. The governor reviewed a video of Green’s deadly arrest, his spokesman said.
Some observers of Edwards’ reaction to the Green incident see it as partly a political calculation. At the time of the deadly arrest, the Centrist Democrats were in a very conservative and tough reelection campaign against the Republicans backed by Donald Trump.His path to reelection relied on high turnout and crossover support from law enforcement agencies.
Joshua Stockley, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana Monroe, said Green’s death, and ultimately the biral footage, “threaten both voting groups politically at the same time.”
But the first public signs that Green was abused didn’t show up until a few months after Edwards won 51% of the votes for businessman Eddie Respawn. He won 90% of the votes in Orleans Parish, a 60% black parish, including New Orleans, primarily due to the large turnout of black voters in urban areas.
“It’s hard to believe that the video was released during the election with no serious consequences,” Stockley said. “That would have been amazing.”
Braeberg reported from Dallas. Former AP journalist Melinda Deslatte contributed to this report.