The local Louisiana district attorney with jurisdiction over the town where Ronald Greene died following an interaction with state troopers told state lawmakers Thursday that he plans to convene a special grand jury and pursue criminal charges against the troopers involved in the Black motorist’s death.
Testifying before a special committee of the Louisiana State Legislature that is investigating Greene’s 2019 death, District Attorney John Belton said a “criminal act” occurred and plans to “move swiftly” to convene a grand jury.
Speaking with CNN after the committee hearing adjourned, Belton reiterated his position, saying, “I have already stated that crimes have been committed.”
Belton was asked by the US Attorney’s Office not to proceed with charges while the Department of Justice was investigating Greene’s death for civil rights violations, he said. That changed last week when Belton said he received a call from the US attorney now handling the case, Brandon Brown, telling him that he could move forward with a local investigation that will take place concurrently with the federal probe.
The Department of Justice declined to comment.
Belton did not give a timeline on when he would begin a local investigation, but told lawmakers that he expects to “move swiftly.”
Greene died on May 10, 2019, while in the custody of the Louisiana State Police after a police chase.
Body camera footage of the incident shows state troopers repeatedly tasing, beating and violently dragging Greene. The family has filed a lawsuit, accusing the agency of trying to cover up how Greene died. Greene’s family said they were initially told that he died in a car crash, but forensics examiners later eliminated the car crash as being a reason for his cause of death.
The troopers involved have maintained that Greene’s death “was caused by crash-related blunt force chest trauma that resulted in a fractured sternum and ruptured aorta,” and have maintained they had to use force to restrain him “for their own personal safety and for the safety of the public,” according to court documents.
When asked by CNN whether anyone from Louisiana State Police attempted to discourage him from pursuing charges, the prosecutor simply said, “No.” When asked to characterize what he saw in the body cam footage of Greene’s encounter with police, Belton called the video “disturbing.”
During an exchange with lawmakers, Belton said his office is “looking at everything” as part of his probe, including potential obstruction of justice charges.
Representatives on the committee, including state Reps. Edmond Jordan and C. Denise Marcelle, told CNN that the goal of the committee was to find out what happened. The committee has been meeting weekly since early March and plans on continuing to hear testimony through the legislative session, which concludes the first week of June.
What we know about the case
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Greene’s family, the family was initially told Greene died on impact during the crash. A report from Glenwood Medical Center listed the principal cause of death as cardiac arrest and described an “unspecified injury” to Greene’s head. Postmortem photos published on the NAACP Baton Rouge Facebook page showed large abrasions to Greene’s skull and bruising on his cheeks.
A report from the Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division’s investigation into Greene’s in-custody death cited a “struggle” with state troopers.
“A short time later Greene became unresponsive and was transported to Glenwood Medical Center by Pafford Medical Service,” the report said.
Greene died on the way to the medical center, according to the LSP report.
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.