Notes from the Louisiana State Police’s investigation into Ronald Greene’s death during a violent arrest show top brass blocked the arrest of an officer who was involved.
In records obtained by the USA Today Network, LSP Investigator Albert Paxton wrote that he was blocked from charging an officer who beat Greene during the May 2019 arrest by the department’s leadership, including former Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves.
Greene, a Black man, died during the arrest made by state police near Monroe on May 10, 2019.
State police initially covered up Greene’s cause of death, saying it was caused by a single-car wreck following a high-speed pursuit.
But evidence soon emerged Greene died as a result of injuries suffered during his arrest.
The revelations were followed by the retirement of Reeves and Chief of Staff Bob Brown, both of whom Paxton implicated in the agency’s refusal to levy charges against one of the officers involved in Greene’s death.
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According to Paxton’s notes, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth turned off his body camera before the arrest and beating that led to Greene’s death, an act Paxton wrote should have triggered charges against the long-time trooper.
Paxton wrote that during his initial investigation in May 2019, he determined Hollingsworth should be charged with obstruction for deactivating his body camera and with aggravated assault for beating Greene during the arrest.
But in a May 17, 2019 meeting department leadership, including Monroe-based Troop F Commander John Peters, Paxton wrote that he and other investigators were told they would have “issues with patrol” if they arrested Hollingsworth in a meeting that “became very heated.”
“We were told there was no obstruction and we needed to wait on the autopsy. We didn’t know where (Greene’s) left hand was. Bad case law, he was turning off his camera to hide bad driving, call his girlfriend, he was the second car in the pursuit, ‘what is evidence and who decides?'” Paxton wrote.
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“We were also told if we arrest Hollingsworth for turning off his camera then we (Bureau of Investigations) would have issues with patrol.”
Hollingsworth faced being fired for his role in Greene’s death immediately before dying in a single-car crash in September 2020, according to the Associated Press.
An LSP spokesperson wrote in an email responding to a series of questions Wednesday that the agency is fully cooperating with investigating authorities.
“The investigation into the death of Ronald Greene remains under review by federal and state authorities. LSP continues to offer our full cooperation with the investigation and fully intends to release all available documents and investigative files at the appropriate time,” Capt. Nick Manale wrote.
“All official investigative notes and reports were included in the case file delivered to investigating agencies.”
Paxton also wrote that on May 27, 2019 fellow investigator Scott Brown told Reeves, who commanded Monroe’s Troop F between 2008 and 2013, about their concerns over the Greene case, to which Reeves replied that they couldn’t arrest troopers for turning off their cameras because it would set a precedent.
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Paxton then wrote that after delivering his investigative report on Greene’s death to Third Judicial District Attorney John Belton in September, Belton’s staff told him federal prosecutors should be involved.
Afterward, Paxton’s superiors Brown and Criminal Investigations Division Maj. Jason Turner told him they had to be present at any further meetings with the district attorney.
Turner has since been tasked with creating and leading a force investigations unit within the agency..
Belton later told Paxton that he had spoken to Reeves about Greene’s death and hadn’t made up his mind about the case, adding that Reeves had called the incident “awful but lawful,” Paxton wrote.
After Paxton turned in his report noting that Hollingsworth had turned his body camera off before the arrest, he wrote that Peters was unhappy that Paxton included that detail in his official write up.
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“They said it didn’t have anything to do with Greene’s death. Bob Brown told us they said we were out to get Hollingsworth,” Paxton wrote.
By August 2020, the department’s internal affairs division launched an investigation into Greene’s death and questioned why no arrests were made, Paxton wrote.
Paxton added that after speaking to Sgt. Scott Davis, a use-of-force instructor at the LSP Training Academy just days before Hollingsworth’s death in September 2020, he was convinced that the master trooper had broken the law and that other responding officers were complicit.
“Hollingsworth committed crimes not policy violations. (Master Trooper Kory) York committed batteries and (Lt. John) Clary watched and or stood by,” Paxton wrote.
Contributing: Brett Murphy, USA TODAY
Follow Andrew Capps on Twitter: @JAndrewCapps