La. GOP leader weighs action over gov’s ‘gross misconduct’

Jim Mustian and Jake Bleiberg
Associated Press

Louisiana’s top GOP lawmaker weighed taking legislative action Monday against Gov. John Bel Edwards for “gross misconduct and the highest level of deceit” in his response to the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene.

House Speaker Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s comments followed an Associated Press report that showed the Democratic governor was informed within hours that troopers arresting Greene engaged in a “violent, lengthy struggle,” yet he stayed silent for two years as state police told a much different story to the victim’s family and in official reports: that Greene died from a crash after a high-speed chase.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards talks to the media, July 21, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

The revelations have united an unusual coalition of Black activists and Republican officials in demanding answers from the governor.

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

Schexnayder, who said he met over the weekend with the state’s Republican senate president and attorney general, did not elaborate on the options he was considering but noted “we are fully prepared to use the authority granted to us in the constitution of this state.”

This file 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.

Edwards’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schexnayder’s statement. His spokesperson has previously declined to say what steps, if any, the governor took immediately after receiving that text about the circumstances of Greene’s arrest, saying “the governor does not direct disciplinary or criminal investigations.”

Ronald Greene smiles in an undated photo provided by his family.

Edwards, who was in the midst of a tight reelection campaign at the time of Greene’s death, remained publicly tight-lipped about the contradictory accounts and possible cover-up until last May when the AP obtained and published long-withheld body-camera footage showing what really happened: white troopers jolting Greene with stun guns, punching him in the face and dragging him by his ankle shackles as he pleaded for mercy and wailed, “I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!”

The video prompted Edwards to finally speak out to condemn the troopers, and he later called their actions “criminal.” But the governor, who comes from a long family line of law enforcement officers, also repeated the crash theory and downplayed the actions of the troopers. In one case detailed by the AP, he allegedly argued privately last June against Schexnayder’s proposal for a legislative inquiry into the Greene arrest, telling him there was no need because he “died in a wreck.”

The Republican lawmakers are considering action amid an ongoing federal civil rights investigation of the deadly encounter and whether police brass obstructed justice to protect the troopers who arrested Greene.

Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin called on Edwards to resign, saying he chose political expedience over justice in a man’s death.

“He needs to go,” Hardin told AP. “He was able to stand aside as all this unfolded and just remain mute. That’s shameful. … I hate that I’ve been lied to.”

Louisiana NAACP officials issued a statement calling the AP revelations “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,” the statement said. “When did you learn the truth, governor?”

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Mustian reported from New York; Bleiberg, from Dallas.