Family of Black man who died in police custody describe 'horrific' bodycam video

Mona Hardin, the mother of Ronald Greene. (ABC News)By ANTHONY RIVAS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — It’s been over a year since Ronald Greene died in an incident with the Louisiana State Police that’s become the focus of a federal civil rights investigation, but his mother said thinking about it takes her “right back to day one.”

“It’s like I haven’t awakened from this bad dream,” Mona Hardin told ABC News’ Linsey Davis.

Hardin’s son died on May 10, 2019, after failing to stop for an unspecified traffic violation and subsequently leading police on a chase in northern Louisiana, near Monroe. Greene’s family said authorities initially told them that he’d died when the car crashed into a tree or shrub. The family is disputing the police report, which does not mention use of force by the troopers.

The family has released photos of Greene from after the incident over the last month showing what appear to be multiple bruises and lacerations around his face and head. His family also released images of his car, which only showed minor damage.

In body camera audio obtained by ABC News, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth can be heard saying, “I beat the ever-living f— out of him,” and, “Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control.”

Attorney Lee Merritt is representing Greene’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Louisiana State Police. He and Greene’s family reviewed the body camera video with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday. He said that when Greene crashed, he surrendered with his hands up and repeatedly apologized.

“The law enforcement officers approached the vehicle shouting obscenities. They immediately tased Ronald and [dragged] him from the car. … Once they had him on the ground, Officer Chris Hollingsworth put him in a chokehold while the other officers tased him a second time and a third time,” Merritt said.

Merritt said that as Hollingsworth choked Greene, he demanded that Greene place his arms behind his back. He said that Greene continued to be choked and shocked by the stun gun as the other troopers shouted insults at Greene. When Greene was finally handcuffed, Merritt said the troopers continued to beat, choke and mock him.

“His death certificate and this video are two different stories. It’s horrific. I can’t close my eyes and not see my son and what they did to him,” Hardin said. “I find it hard to sleep. … It was hard before; it’s even harder now. It’s unbelievable that this has gone this long.”

ABC News has not independently seen the body camera footage.

Hardin said that when her family heard about Greene, they went down to Louisiana to try to talk to state police, but did not have a chance.

“We had no cooperation, no communication with none of the police, no state troopers, anything,” she said. “And it was a back and forth, they just ran us in circles. We couldn’t talk to no one and no one called us. That let us know that it just wasn’t right. And then we saw the car that they told us ran into a tree, and as we put those pieces together, we saw that this was just not right.”

The Louisiana State Police, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, opened an investigation into the case in August 2020, a year after the incident. Hollingsworth was one of six troopers placed on administrative leave. He died last month in a single-car crash on the same day he was told he’d be fired for his role in the incident.

The FBI also announced it was investigating the case for civil rights violations last month, saying that it would “collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner.”

Merritt says that after seeing the body camera video, “we know that there are additional officers that need to be arrested.”

“They should have been arrested when this video was shared with the supervisors, and so there should be an investigation into why those supervisors and whoever was responsible to stop this kind of thing happening — why weren’t these men fired?” he added.

“The family is extremely disappointed that they won’t have the opportunity to see Chris Hollingsworth prosecuted,” he continued. “We certainly want to see the other two officers prosecuted.”

Hardin, meanwhile, said that speaking with the families of other people who’ve lost their loved ones in police-involved incidents has helped.

“It’s so bittersweet, but … we understand each other’s grief,” she said. “Our loss, we totally connect. I hate using that description, but when people usually say, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ it doesn’t resonate on any level. But immediately, you meet these families who’ve endured this kind of pain and horrific situations … it’s an unspoken bond that happens, and for me, I’ve found that it lightens the burden on me.”

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