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La. lawmakers divided over Ronald Greene case developments

Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 11:56 AM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Some Louisiana lawmakers are calling for Gov. John Bel Edwards to be investigated over his knowledge of the death of Ronald Greene. Others say it’s just politics at play.

“It’s our responsibility to the people of this state to seek the truth,” wrote Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales. “It’s time to find out who knew what and when - and hold them accountable.”

“I think, at this point, that the governor took the right steps,” said Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe. “If that changes, I’ll be the first one to say that.”

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The Associated Press published a text message sent to Edwards, just hours after Greene died in police custody in 2019.

This image obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request shows a text...
This image obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request shows a text message to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, informing him of the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene. Police told Edwards that troopers engaged in “a violent, lengthy struggle” that ended with the Black motorist’s death. The Democrat remained publicly quiet as police clung to a much different story: that Greene died from a crash following a high-speed chase. What the governor knew and when have become questions in the federal investigation of Greene's death. (AP Photo)(AP)

The text comes from a contact saved with the first name “Kevin” and the last initial “R.” At the time, Col. Kevin Reeves served as superintendent for Louisiana State Police (LSP).

“A violent, lengthy struggle took place,” stated the message. It also showed someone responding, “Thank you,” from Edwards’s phone.

For nearly two years, detectives said Greene’s death happened because his car crashed in a high-speed chase.

An investigation later cast doubt on that theory and suggested the struggle between Greene and law enforcement may have played a larger role in his death.

“I think that the text has been taken grossly out of context. My understanding is that anytime there is an officer-involved fatality with state police, the governor receives a text. So, that’s a formality text. He would have to investigate every text he receives on an officer-involved shooting. He would have to sound the alarm, and there is a due process issue to sounding the alarm,” explained Jackson.

She sits on a state Senate committee formed to monitor policing practices within LSP. She said the text is more damning of Reeves.

“If you read the text, it’s a coverup. It never says an officer hit [Greene] and it never says what happened. I’m a major advocate for this thing being unveiled totally, but I believe, at that point, others in state police covered it up and made it look like the routine text that comes to the governor,” added Jackson, who also noted Reeves was called to testify to the committee but allegedly ignored that request.

New Ronald Greene autopsy dumps crash theory in fatal arrest

Schexnayder released a statement on Monday, Jan. 31, calling the text message “greatly disturbing.”

“This would demonstrate gross misconduct and the highest level of deceit on behalf of the governor and others,” wrote Schexnayder.

“I’m not going to let people play politics with this,” said Jackson, in response to Schexnayder’s condemnation of Edwards.

Jackson expressed skepticism about Schexnayder’s interest in the case, pointing to failed attempts to negotiate oversight of the case in the Louisiana House of Representatives.

“The truth is members of the [Legislative Black Caucus] have been asking for oversight. The only person who granted that was the [State Senate] president,” said Jackson.

Schexnayder wrote that he discussed the matter with the Senate President and the Attorney General, and was “fully prepared to use the authority granted to us in the constitution of this state.”

A spokeswoman in Edwards’s office previously said the governor is not under investigation for any misconduct surrounding the case.

The NAACP released the following statement about The Associated Press report about the text exchange:

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