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"I am not here to make excuses" Edwards discusses Ronald Greene investigation

Edwards Greene presser.PNG
Posted at 3:20 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-02 11:09:33-05

Governor John Bel Edwards held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the investigation into the death of Ronald Greene.

This press conference comes after reports questioning what Governor Edwards knew about the Greene case and when.

Edwards says that no family should have to experience what the Greene family had to go through and he was not there to make excuses.

"I am not here to make excuses for what took place," he said. "I have said the manner in which Mr. Greene was treated that night was criminal. I cannot imagine that if Mr. Greene would have been white, he would have been treated that way."

Edwards said that in this case, we have to "call it what it is and must acknowledge that and that there is implicit bias and outright racism in many people."

The governor said that he would never do anything to impede an investigation which has been alleged in some media reports.

He stated that before the videos were made public, he declined to characterize them. The DOJ, he stated, requested that Edwards not make videos public and he believed that included speaking publicly on the case.

Once those videos were made public in May 2021, he finally made his opinion known.

Edwards says he learned of the 2019 incident through a text message received from State Police. That text is further down in this article.

The text, which is at the center of an Associated Press article, was sent over a month ago to the media outlet, Edwards said. He would not see any video of the incident until nearly 15 months later, he stated.

Edwards says all he knew was that a fatal incident involving officers had occurred. He says any notion that he attempted to cover up the incident and what occurred is false.

In August 2019, state prosecutors received the report of Greene's death, that was then moved to federal investigators.

He stated that his office asked the DOJ if they could make the videos of Greene's death public. The DOJ told the governor's office that the videos should not be made public as it might impede the investigation.

Edward's office then changed their request to the DOJ to allow the showing of the videos to the Greene family and others involved in the case. That request was granted by the DOJ.

The meeting with Greene's family occurred on October 14, 2020. Edwards met with the Greene family and the Legislative Black Caucus members. At that time, Edwards says he had only seen the videos a few days before that meeting.

On his personal opinion about Greene's death, Edwards says that from the beginning, he never mis-characterized Greene's death. He said that the initial text never stated that Greene died in a car accident and that he has never said that Greene died in that way.

Edwards also says that his office has not interfered or tried to influence the investigation into Greene's death. The Governor's Office only played a part in letting Greene and other leaders, with permission from DOJ, view the body cam videos.

Edwards says that the Associated Press article which alleges that Edwards interfered in the case because of the election is false.

The Governor says that he will not speculate on the outcome of the case going forward but does hope the family will receive justice.

"This is an opportunity for us to learn from the tragedy. Change is happening now. It never comes as quickly as we like," he said. Edwards says that he has met with the Legislative Black Caucus, which he described as a serious meeting.

He has not met with the Greene family since sitting down with them to watch the body cam video. He says he will reach out to family again.

See the full press conference below:

Following media reports that the FBI was investigating what Gov. Edwards knew about the Greene case, and when, federal officials have issued a statement denying that is true.

United States Attorney Brandon B. Brown and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr., release the following statement in connection with the Ronald Greene investigation:

“The Department of Justice has an open and ongoing criminal investigation into the incident that resulted in the death of Ronald Greene. The investigation is being handled by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), along with career prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The investigation has been comprehensive and those conducting the investigation have followed all credible leads. If the investigation reveals prosecutable violations of any federal criminal statutes, the Department will take appropriate action. While the investigation continues, recent reporting citing sources suggesting that the FBI has questioned people about the awareness of certain facts by Governor John Bel Edwards is inaccurate.”

Earlier today, we received the following statement from Christina Stephens, the deputy chief of staff for communications, regarding the ongoing discussion regarding when the Governor knew what about the death of Ronald Greene:

The Governor first learned of the serious allegations against Louisiana State Police surrounding the arrest and death of Mr. Ronald Greene in September 2020. He had previously been notified of the arrest and death of an unnamed individual in May of 2019 by then LSP Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves. That text message was provided to the Associated Press by the Governor’s office and is attached to this email.

It is standard practice for the head of LSP to notify the Governor of incidents where a person dies in custody. He did not see, nor was he aware of, the videos of the arrest until much later in October of 2020. From the moment the Governor learned of the allegations and saw the videos, he has consistently said that the actions of the officers in the videos were disturbing and unacceptable and that the matter should be fully investigated by federal and state authorities.

Neither the Governor nor anyone on the Governor’s staff has ever intervened or interfered in any criminal investigation, including the investigation into Mr. Greene’s death.

The Legislative Black Caucus has requested to meet with the Governor about the serious allegations in the Associated Press article and that meeting will take place tomorrow afternoon. He will speak to and take questions from the media after that meeting.

Here's the screen shot of the text in question:

Here's a statement from Lafayette legislator Vincent Pierre, chair-elect of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus:

“Since the beginning, the members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus have called for transparency and accountability within this case, and we are still committed to finding out the truth. Fighting systematic issues within our criminal justice system has long been a goal for our members, and we'll continue serving as a voice for those who face injustices within our communities.

We have called a meeting with Governor Edwards to discuss any possible new findings in the case and to form a consensus on how to move forward in our mission of obtaining justice for the family of Mr. Greene."