Trooper who faced firing in Black man’s death dies in crash

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FILE – In this Aug. 28, 2020 file photo, family members of Ronald Greene listen to speakers as demonstrators gather for the March on Washington, in Washington, on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Officials told The Associated Press, federal authorities are investigating the death of Greene during what Louisiana State Police described as a struggle to take him into custody following a rural police chase last year. The death of the 49-year-old remains shrouded in secrecy because State Police have declined to release body-camera footage related to the May 2019 chase north of Monroe, La. (Michael M. Santiago/Pool via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana state trooper has died following a single-vehicle highway crash that happened just hours after he learned he would be fired for his role last year in the in-custody death of a Black man.

Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth was pronounced dead Tuesday following a brief hospitalization, Warren Lee, chief investigator for the Ouachita Parish Coroner’s Office, told The Associated Press.

Hollingsworth had been airlifted to Shreveport early Monday after crashing his personal vehicle on Interstate 20 near Monroe. Police have not released any details about how the crash occurred.

Hours before, Hollingsworth had received word that State Police intended to terminate him following an internal investigation into the May 2019 death of Ronald Greene, a case that has drawn mounting scrutiny and become the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.

Authorities initially said Greene died after crashing his vehicle into a tree following a high-speed chase in rural northern Louisiana that began over an unspecified traffic violation. But Greene’s family alleges troopers used excessive force and “brutalized” him while taking him into custody.

State Police, despite growing pressure, have repeatedly declined to release body-camera footage and other records related to Greene’s arrest.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said Tuesday he has not seen the footage but pledged to make it public once the ongoing investigations are concluded.

“When that happens,” he said, “the videos will be shown.”

Greene’s family called for “the immediate arrest of the remaining men responsible for this tragic and unnecessary death.”

“Trooper Hollingsworth’s family has the finality of knowing exactly how he died as their community mourns his loss,” said Lee Merritt, a prominent civil rights attorney representing the family. “The family of Ronald Greene, however, is still being denied the same finality by the State of Louisiana.”

Greene’s family has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit alleging troopers “brutalized” Greene, used a stun gun on him three times and “left him beaten, bloodied and in cardiac arrest” before covering up his actual cause of death.

The controversy deepened last week when Greene’s family released graphic photographs showing deep bruises and cuts to his face, and other photos showing his car with little damage. That raised questions about whether Greene received those injuries in a car crash — as authorities initially told his family — or when troopers arrested him.

State Police have said only that the 49-year-old Greene died “after resisting arrest and a struggle with troopers” who took him into custody.

The agency opened an internal investigation into the case last month and placed Hollingsworth on paid leave Sept. 9. No disciplinary action has been announced against the other five troopers involved.

Edwards said Tuesday he was “not comfortable in saying that I’m happy” with the amount of time — more than 15 months — that passed between Greene’s death and the opening of the State Police internal investigation. He added, however, that “there are reasons for that, and there’s an approach that has been taken for as long as anybody can remember when you have criminal investigations that are ongoing.”

“Whether that continues to be the most appropriate approach to that, I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re going to be taking a look into that and whether some changes are necessary.”

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Mustian reported from New York.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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