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Louisiana trooper unit under investigation

Agency’s secret panel reportedly scouring records, videos for acts of racial abuse by JIM MUSTIAN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | June 10, 2021 at 4:12 a.m.
In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Louisiana State Police body camera video, Troopers Jacob Brown, left; George Harper, center, and others restrain motorist Antonio Harris on the ground on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. Troopers exchanged 14 text messages peppered with “lol” and “haha” responses in which they boasted about the beating. “He gonna be sore tomorrow for sure,” Brown texted. “Warms my heart knowing we could educate that young man.” (Larry Shappley/Louisiana State Police via AP)

BATON ROUGE -- The same Louisiana State Police unit whose troopers stunned, punched and dragged Ronald Greene on video during a deadly 2019 arrest is now under internal investigation by a secret panel over whether its officers are systematically targeting Black motorists for abuse.

The panel, confirmed to The Associated Press by four people familiar with it, was set up in response to Greene's death as well as three other violent stops of Black men: one who was punched, stunned and hoisted to his feet by his braids in a body-camera video obtained by the AP, another who was beaten after he was handcuffed, and yet another who was slammed 18 times with a flashlight.

"Every time I told him to stop he'd hit me again," said Aaron Bowman, who was left with three broken ribs, a broken jaw, a broken wrist and a gash on his head that required six staples to close after he was beaten with a flashlight. "I don't want to see this happen to nobody -- not to my worst enemy."

The panel began working a few weeks ago to review thousands of body-camera videos over the past two years involving as many as a dozen white troopers, at least four of whom were involved in Greene's arrest.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV1zWMgItt0]

The review is focused on Louisiana State Police Troop F, a 66-officer unit that patrols a sprawling territory in the northeastern part of the state and has become notorious in recent years for alleged acts of brutality that have resulted in felony charges against some of its troopers.

"You'd be naive to think it's limited to two or three instances. That's why you're seeing this audit, which is a substantial undertaking by any agency," said Rafael Goyeneche, a former prosecutor who is president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a New Orleans watchdog group. "They've got to identify these people and remove them from the organization."

Other than the federal civil-rights investigation into Greene's death, the state police panel is the only known inquiry into possible systemic abuse and racism by its troopers.

Its seven members, drawn from officials from across the state police agency, are not only scouring the videos for signs of excessive force, the people told the AP, but also examining whether troopers showed racist tendencies in their traffic stops and pursuits, and whether they mislabeled body-camera videos, turned off their cameras or used other means to hide evidence from internal investigators.

It's not clear if the panel has a deadline or if it plans to expand the inquiry to the eight other troops in the 1,200-officer state police.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Soon after Greene's May 10, 2019, death, troopers told his relatives he died in a crash after a chase on a rural road near Monroe. Later, the state police agency issued a one-page statement saying that troopers struggled with Greene during his arrest and that he died on the way to the hospital.

For more than two years, Louisiana officials from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards down rebuffed repeated requests to release the body-camera video of Greene's arrest.

But that changed last month after the AP released footage it obtained showing troopers converging on Greene's car, repeatedly jolting the 49-year-old unarmed man with stun guns, putting him in a chokehold, striking him in the head and dragging him by his ankle shackles. Greene can be heard apologizing to the officers, telling them he is scared and moaning and gasping for air.

One 30-minute clip, which a supervisor denied having for two years, shows troopers ordering the heavyset Greene to remain facedown with his hands and feet restrained for more than nine minutes -- a tactic use-of-force experts criticized as dangerous and likely to have restricted his breathing.

An autopsy report obtained by AP lists Greene's cause of death as "cocaine induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury and restraint."

No troopers have been charged in Greene's arrest. Trooper Kory York, who was seen dragging Greene, was suspended without pay for 50 hours. Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth, who was recorded on his body camera bragging that he "beat the ever-living f---" out of Greene, was told he would be fired last year just hours before he died in single-vehicle crash.

In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Louisiana State Police body camera video, an unidentified law enforcement officer applies an electric weapon to the back of motorist Antonio Harris as he and other officers restrain him on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. Troopers exchanged 14 text messages peppered with “lol” and “haha” responses in which they boasted about the beating. (Larry Shappley/Louisiana State Police via AP)
In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Louisiana State Police body camera video, an unidentified law enforcement officer applies an electric weapon to the back of motorist Antonio Harris as he and other officers restrain him on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. Troopers exchanged 14 text messages peppered with “lol” and “haha” responses in which they boasted about the beating. (Larry Shappley/Louisiana State Police via AP)
In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office body camera video, law enforcement officers restrain motorist Antonio Harris, bottom center, on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. (Aaron Touchet/Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office via AP)
In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office body camera video, law enforcement officers restrain motorist Antonio Harris, bottom center, on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. (Aaron Touchet/Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office via AP)
This May 30, 2019 photo provided by his attorneys shows a stitched wound on Aaron Bowman's head at the St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, La., after, according to court documents, a police officer pummeled Bowman with a flashlight specially designed for shattering car glass, striking him 18 times as he was being handcuffed and not resisting. “I thought I was going to die that night — I bled so much,” Bowman says. “It’s hard to deal with. I can’t function half of the time. It’s just hard for me to think now.” (AP Photo)
This May 30, 2019 photo provided by his attorneys shows a stitched wound on Aaron Bowman's head at the St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, La., after, according to court documents, a police officer pummeled Bowman with a flashlight specially designed for shattering car glass, striking him 18 times as he was being handcuffed and not resisting. “I thought I was going to die that night — I bled so much,” Bowman says. “It’s hard to deal with. I can’t function half of the time. It’s just hard for me to think now.” (AP Photo)
This May 30, 2019 photo provided by his attorneys shows Aaron Bowman at the St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, La., after, according to court documents, a police officer pummeled Bowman with a flashlight specially designed for shattering car glass, striking him 18 times as he was being handcuffed and not resisting. “I thought I was going to die that night — I bled so much,” Bowman says. “It’s hard to deal with. I can’t function half of the time. It’s just hard for me to think now.” (AP Photo)
This May 30, 2019 photo provided by his attorneys shows Aaron Bowman at the St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, La., after, according to court documents, a police officer pummeled Bowman with a flashlight specially designed for shattering car glass, striking him 18 times as he was being handcuffed and not resisting. “I thought I was going to die that night — I bled so much,” Bowman says. “It’s hard to deal with. I can’t function half of the time. It’s just hard for me to think now.” (AP Photo)
In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Louisiana State Police body camera video, Trooper Dakota DeMoss approaches motorist Antonio Harris lying on the ground on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. Internal investigators found that troopers produced “wholly untrue” reports saying Harris resisted and that they sought to conceal the existence of body-camera video. (Dakota DeMoss/Louisiana State Police via AP)
In this Saturday, May 23, 2020 image from Louisiana State Police body camera video, Trooper Dakota DeMoss approaches motorist Antonio Harris lying on the ground on the side of a road after a high speed chase in Franklin Parish, La. Internal investigators found that troopers produced “wholly untrue” reports saying Harris resisted and that they sought to conceal the existence of body-camera video. (Dakota DeMoss/Louisiana State Police via AP)
FILE - This image from Louisiana State Police Trooper Dakota DeMoss' body-worn camera video shows other troopers holding up Ronald Greene before paramedics arrived on May 10, 2019, outside of Monroe, La. The video obtained by The Associated Press shows Louisiana state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black man as he apologizes for leading them on a high-speed chase, footage authorities refused to release in the two years since Greene died in police custody. (Dakota DeMoss/Louisiana State Police via AP)
FILE - This image from Louisiana State Police Trooper Dakota DeMoss' body-worn camera video shows other troopers holding up Ronald Greene before paramedics arrived on May 10, 2019, outside of Monroe, La. The video obtained by The Associated Press shows Louisiana state troopers stunning, punching and dragging the Black man as he apologizes for leading them on a high-speed chase, footage authorities refused to release in the two years since Greene died in police custody. (Dakota DeMoss/Louisiana State Police via AP)
FILE - This combination of photos provided by the Ouachita Correctional Center and Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office shows, from left, Louisiana State Police Troopers Jacob Brown, Randall Dickerson, George Harper and Dakota DeMoss. Court filings show Louisiana State Police troopers joked in a group text about beating a Black man after a high-speed chase, saying the beating would give the man "nightmares for a long time." The May 2020 arrest of Antonio Harris bears strong resemblance to the State Police pursuit a year earlier that ended in the death of Ronald Greene. (Ouachita Correctional Center and Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office via AP)
FILE - This combination of photos provided by the Ouachita Correctional Center and Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office shows, from left, Louisiana State Police Troopers Jacob Brown, Randall Dickerson, George Harper and Dakota DeMoss. Court filings show Louisiana State Police troopers joked in a group text about beating a Black man after a high-speed chase, saying the beating would give the man "nightmares for a long time." The May 2020 arrest of Antonio Harris bears strong resemblance to the State Police pursuit a year earlier that ended in the death of Ronald Greene. (Ouachita Correctional Center and Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office via AP)
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