Federal authorities are investigating the death of a West Monroe man after his family accused Louisiana State Police troopers of causing his death by excessive force and lying about the man dying in a vehicle crash.
Ronald Greene, 49, was driving his vehicle on U.S. Hwy 80 in Monroe on May 10, 2019 when State Police Trooper Dakota Demoss tried to stop Greene for an alleged violation of an unidentified traffic violation. Greene did not stop but kept driving into Union Parish where he swerved and ran off the road into a wooded area. Trooper accounts about what happened next differed from the claims levied by the deceased’s family.
Greene’s daughter, Tayla Greene, of Windemere, Florida, sued six State Police troopers and a Union Parish sheriff’s deputy in federal court earlier this year. Greene’s family also has published graphic photos of Greene’s beaten and bloodied body that they claim are inconsistent with the minor damage done to his vehicle.
Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New Orleans field office released a statement saying it had opened a civil rights investigation into Greene’s death. Greene was black. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Louisiana is assisting with the investigation.
Tayla Greene filed her wrongful death lawsuit on May 6 in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Louisiana, claiming her father was brutalized by the officers. Defendants included Louisiana State Police Trooper Dakota Demoss, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, Master Trooper Kory York, State Police Sgt. Floyd McElroy, State Police Capt. John Peters, State Police Lt. John Clary and Union Parish sheriff’s deputy Christopher Harpin.
As reported by other media outlets, Hollingsworth, the master trooper, was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 9. Hollingsworth, of West Monroe, has since died. Monroe police found Hollingsworth in a one-vehicle crash on Interstate 20 eastbound on Sunday, shortly before 3 a.m. He sustained severe injuries in the crash and later died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Shreveport. The circumstances of his death are under investigation, and autopsy and toxicology reports are pending, according to Monroe Police Sgt. Michael Fendall.
According to Tayla Greene’s complaint, Greene was not injured and could walk and speak and function in a healthy manner. Shortly after the crash, Demoss and Hollingsworth appeared at the scene of the crash.
“Greene exited his car and began to apologize to the officers, telling them he knew he should have stopped the vehicle earlier,” stated the complaint. “Two officers pinned Greene down on the ground while he screamed `Oh my God.’ Greene was moaning, begging the officers to stop, and repeatedly saying ‘I’m sorry.’ Despite Greene’s contrition and surrender, Trooper Demoss, Master Trooper Hollingsworth, Master Trooper York, Captain Peters, Lieutenant Clary, Sergeant McElroy, and Deputy Sheriff Harpin individually and in concert used lethal force against Greene.”
The complaint claimed the officers deployed tasers, striking Greene with massive amounts of electricity. The force used against Greene left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest, according to the complaint. He died about an hour later.
“(In) an effort to conceal the identity or identities of the officer or officers who deployed electronic control weapons, the Louisiana State Police has declined to produce or release body cam footage, dashboard cam footage, discharge logs, use of force reports or any number of investigative materials that would identify who used lethal force,” stated the complaint.
The hospital identified his cause of death as “unidentified injury of head.”
“Officers immediately began efforts to obfuscate the true nature of the conduct that caused Greene’s death,” stated the complaint. “Police personnel told Greene’s family that he had been killed in an auto accident. One Officer told Greene’s mother that he had been killed immediately after hitting a tree. The call for Emergency Medical Services concealed the fact that lethal force had been used. The sole police report produced to date does not indicate that force was used. Inconsistent versions of the Officers’ involvement with Greene were provided to medical treatment providers at Glenwood Hospital. Officers claimed that Greene was intoxicated prior to learning that a toxicology exam found no alcohol or drugs.”
Baton Rouge attorney Ronald Haley is representing the Greene estate.
Last week, Monroe attorney Scott Wolleson, acting as a special assistant attorney general, filed a response to the petition on behalf of Hollingsworth, the now deceased state trooper. In the Sept. 14 motion to dismiss the complaint, Wolleson argued the petition did not detail any specific allegations against Hollingsworth.
“Indeed, the complaint fails to state with factual detail and particularity any conduct of Trooper Hollingsworth from which the court could reasonably infer that Trooper Hollingsworth violated a constitutional right of Mr. Greene,” stated Wolleson’s motion to dismiss.
Other defendants in the case have also filed responses echoing similar objections to the complaint’s allegations.