Gov. Edwards Denies AP Report Showing He Knew Circumstances of Greene’s Death

Photo courtesy Gov. John Bel Edwards official Facebook

Following an Associated Press (AP) reporting implying that he intentionally kept quiet after learning of Ronald Greene’s death in May 2019, Gov. Edwards has issued a statement calling the report “simply and categorically false.”

According to the AP report, Gov. Edwards was notified of the violent circumstances of Ronald Greene’s death within hours of his May 2019 arrest, stating that they obtained text messages showing this through a public records request. The messages notified Edwards that Greene had died in custody following a “violent, lengthy struggle.” In spite of this, Edwards remained quiet about the contradictory public accounts released by Louisiana State Police until the AP obtained and published withheld bodycam footage showing the truth: that white state troopers had used tasers on Greene, punched him in the face, and dragged him by ankle shackles as he pled for mercy.

On Tuesday, Edwards vehemently denied that he interfered with or delayed investigations into Greene’s arrest and death, saying – for the first time publicly – that the actions of the Louisiana State Police troopers were racist.

“I can’t imagine if Mr. Greene had been white he would have been treated that way,” Edwards said. “We have to acknowledge racism when we see it. We have to call it what it is.”

Edwards’ statement came minutes after a closed-door meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus, during which members pressed Edwards on why he had failed to speak out more strongly once he had been informed of Greene’s death.

“A man died in custody. You don’t ask his name? You don’t ask what happened? You don’t get any facts,” said one caucus member.

“I am not going to tell you everything that has happened with the state police since I’ve been governor has been perfect,” Edwards said, later continuing, “[AP News] s alleging that I have been personally involved in things and I have not… Let me address this now and make this commitment to you. I will say that this was a racist incident, a criminal incident. I will say that.”

Previously Edwards had declined to characterize the footage, even after viewing it himself in Oct. 2020. It was only after AP published the footage in May 2021 that Edwards first referred to the actions of the troopers as “criminal.”

Louisiana House Speaker Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R) released a statement Monday that he is considering taking action against the governor as a result of the AP report.

“This would demonstrate gross misconduct and the highest level of deceit on behalf of the governor and others,” Schexnayder said. “What happened to Ronald Greene is inexcusable and should never happen to anyone. His family and the citizens of the state deserve to know the truth.”

The Louisiana NAACP called the AP report “deeply disturbing.”

“The NAACP finds this severely demonstrates a need for our governor to be fully transparent with our great state. We feel that our governor has seemingly missed the mark so far. When did you learn the truth, governor?”

Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin has called on Edwards to resign.

“He was able to stand aside as all this unfolded and just remained mute. That’s shameful.”

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