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Police told his family that he was killed in a car accident. Video footage shows he died in her care in Louisiana

Police told Ronald Greene’s family that the 49-year-old black man died after his car crashed into a tree in a police chase in May 2019 and refused to body-camera record the incident for the next two years to publish publicly.

Until this week, when the Associated Press released a video showing that Louisiana state forces had instead stunned, beaten, and dragged Greene as he apologized for leading them on a high-speed chase.

The footage shows white officers with a stun gun on Greene, who said, “I’m your brother! I’m afraid! I’m afraid!”

The deception after Greene’s death underlined that the power police must shape the narrative of their encounters with the public and mask the brutality in their ranks.

Unlike other incidents where body camera footage was made available almost immediately after a fatal encounter with police, authorities refused to release footage of Greene’s arrest for two years.

Greene had ignored the request to pull up shortly after midnight for an unspecified traffic violation on May 20, 2019, and triggered a car chase on the dark country roads near the Arkansas border.

Greene’s family said police first told them that Greene died in the car chase, ran into a tree and fatally injured his head after hitting the windshield. Police later corrected the story, saying Greene fought soldiers and died on the way to the hospital.

The Associated Press did not say how it got a 46-minute video clip from an officer’s body camera, but instead made three clips from the video audience on Wednesday, proving that the Louisiana State Police narrative was largely fabricated.

Ronald Greene's family were told by police that he died in a car chase after running into a tree.Ronald Greene’s family were told by police that he died in a car chase after running into a tree. Photo: AP

“The cover-up started within hours of receiving news that he was killed in the accident,” Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, told CNN.

In the video, officers wrestle Green down, put him in a stranglehold, and call him a “stupid motherfucker”. After police shackled Greene’s legs and handcuffed his hands, the AP said the police pulled him face down and left while cleaning blood from their hands and faces. This is not shown by the video published by the news agency.

An attorney for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, told the AP the footage had “some of the same characteristics of the George Floyd video, length, sheer brutality”.

One key difference is that one video was suppressed while Greene’s family battled largely outside the national limelight for answers, and the other video was released the day after George Floyd’s death – sparking global protests against racial injustices.

Greene’s family had already filed an unlawful death lawsuit in the case, stating that excessive violence had “hit, bloody and brought into cardiac arrest” Greene. They saw the video in October, but officials refused to make it public.

The Louisiana State Police did not immediately respond to a Guardian’s request for comment. The agency told the AP that “the early release of investigation files and video evidence is not allowed in this case and … undermines the investigation process and endangers the fair and impartial outcome”.

Although the brutal reality of the incident has been made public, the cause of Greene’s death is still unknown.

Union medical examiner Renee Smith, who was out of office when the decision was made on Greene, told the AP last year that his death was due to cardiac arrest and was classified as accidental. She said the office file did not mention his fight with the police.

Meanwhile, the family’s lawyer, Merritt, tweeted Friday that many of the officers involved in the attack on Greene were still at work. An investigation into federal civil rights is ongoing.

“Let’s stop talking about the murder of Ronald Greene as a historical injustice that we can all learn from,” Merritt said. “The Greene family is not looking for the compassion of the nation – we want consequences. Right away.”

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