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Former State Police leader denies cover-up in Ronald Greene’s death

Retired State Police Col. Kevin Revees testifies before a state committee investigating the in-custody death of Ronald Greene, a Black man who died after being beaten by state troopers in 2019. March 15, 2022.
Alex Tirado
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WRKF/WWNO
Retired State Police Col. Kevin Revees testifies before a state committee investigating the in-custody death of Ronald Greene, a Black man who died after being beaten by state troopers in 2019. March 15, 2022.

The former head of the Louisiana State Police denied covering up the violent circumstances of the death of Ronald Greene, a Black man who was killed at the hands of state troopers in 2019.

State lawmakers investigating Greene’s death and the state’s handling of the internal affairs probe that followed grilled former State Police Col. Kevin Reeves for more than three hours on Tuesday over his agency’s handling of evidence. They also questioned Reeves’ assertion that he did not have an in-depth conversation with Gov. John Bel Edwards about the case for more than a year.

Greene died in shackles after a group of state troopers beat, stunned and dragged him along a dark Louisiana roadside nearly three years ago.

For months, State Police told Greene’s family and the public that Greene died on impact in a car crash. The violent reality of his final moments only came to light after bodycam footage of the incident leaked more than a year later.

During the tense hearing, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers said they were baffled by Reeves’ lack of knowledge of the case and described the former State Police head as “disengaged” with the investigation into a rare in-custody death.

“How far down the chain of command do you have to go before you find somebody who actually knew what the heck was going on?” asked Rep. Tony Bacala (R-Prairieville).

“There was no effort to my knowledge to cover up or mislead anyone about the events surrounding Ronald Greene,” Reeves said, adding that he did not oversee or take part in the investigation.

Reeves said that he purposefully stayed out of the process to avoid politicizing the internal affairs investigators' work.

“I am not involved, I’m not directing, I don’t want daily updates,” Reeves said. “I want someone to conduct an investigation in an unfettered manner that represents what happened.”

Reeves rejected a Black lawmaker’s claim that Greene was murdered, and fought back against another who implied that troopers involved in the incident had racist motivations.

House Speaker and state Rep. Clay Schexnayder launched this latest probe into the Ronald Greene killing after it was revealed that Reeves briefed Edwards hours after the incident via text message, describing a “violent, lengthy struggle” that resulted in the death of a then-unnamed suspect.
The message directly contradicted State Police’s initial report to Greene’s family that the 49-year-old barber died on impact in a car accident at the end of a high-speed chase, and it raised questions about what Edwards knew about the case and when he knew it.

Reeves told lawmakers that he mentioned the case to Edwards approximately 10 days later when the initial autopsy report was completed. He said his interaction with Edwards then was no more than “five words” and that he and the governor did not have an in-depth discussion of the incident until the fall of 2020, more than a year after Greene’s death.

State lawmakers said Reeves’ hands-off approach led to mistakes.

Throughout the hearing, Reeves casually dismissed several irregularities in evidence retention as coincidences.

Several State Police phones, including Reeves’, were erased during the investigation of Greene’s in-custody death. Reeves claimed that a “factory reset” of agency-issued phones was commonplace.

He added that he conducted most of his State Police business, including sending his text to Edwards, on his personal phone.
Master Trooper Kory York turned off his body cam before arriving on the scene. Footage from other troopers’ body cams showed York dragging Greene by his shackles.

Reeves personally oversaw the disciplinary process that saw York suspended without pay for 50 hours for his role in the fatal arrest.

Lt. John Clary, the highest-ranking officer on the scene, mislabeled his body camera footage of the encounter with Greene, preventing internal affairs investigators from witnessing the incident from his perspective for several months. Clary is accused of falsely claiming that his body cam footage did not exist.

And some of the officers' initial crash reports did not mention the lengthy struggle that followed, an omission that may have prevented a medical examiner from issuing an accurate cause of death report.

Despite the lawmakers’ cross-examination, Reeves was unequivocal in his assertion that he did nothing wrong and said he would die with a clear conscience.

“Lord knows I’ll have a lot to account for,” Reeves said. “But I can tell you right now, I will not have to account for participating in a cover-up of the death of Mr. Ronald Greene.”

Members of Greene’s family were unconvinced.

During her tearful testimony, Mona Hardin, Greene’s mother, said the State Police’s handling of the case was an “obvious cover-up” that “clearly shows that you think you are way above the law.”

“All I can say is the video speaks it all,” Hardin said. “There is no other way of seeing things than the way we all see it.”

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.