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Ronald Greene’s death is one of many in which video and witness accounts reveal a clearer picture behind initial police accounts

Greene family attorney

When Ronald Greene’s family first learned of his death, his mother said investigative officers with the Louisiana State Police told the family he crashed into a tree following a pursuit. But Mona Hardin says she was not told the whole story.

Two years later, body camera video has publicly emerged to show some of his horrific last moments.

The footage obtained by the Associated Press shows officers after the crash kicking and tasing Greene — details that the family says were not revealed to them at the time they were told of his death.

Now, the family is calling for accountability for all involved. The incident involved “a cover-up on many levels,” his sister Alana Wilson told CNN.

The release of the video clips comes as the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is investigating the death, along with the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana and the FBI.

Greene is one of several Black people who died during police encounters in which the initial official accounts were undermined by the release of cellphone video or body camera footage or by witness accounts of the incident.

Here are some of the recent cases that gained attention when police reports were shown to be incomplete or misleading.

George Floyd

The initial police press release documenting the arrest of George Floyd in May 2020 simply stated: “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. The subject, an adult male believed to be in his 40s, was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.”

The release also noted that no weapons were used by anyone involved.

The report made no mention of Floyd being held down with a knee on his neck for more than 9 minutes.

It wasn’t until cell phone video captured by bystanders was posted that the world heard Floyd crying out that he couldn’t breathe as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him down.

The footage went viral, sparking a summer of national protests over policing and racial bias.

One bystander who took video, Darnella Frazier, testified during Chauvin’s trial. “I heard George Floyd saying — I can’t breathe. Please. Get off me. I can’t breathe,” she testified. “He cried for his mom… It seemed like he knew — seemed like he knew it was over for him.”

Several other bystanders also captured video of the encounter, including another high school student, an off-duty firefighter and an employee at the Speedway across the street.

Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd. His sentencing is set for June 25.

Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter. Chauvin has no prior criminal record, so Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend about 12 and a half years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge.

But the judge in the case recently ruled Floyd’s murder had four aggravating factors, which paves the way for him to sentence Chauvin to longer than the recommended 12 and a half years.

Breonna Taylor

The incident report for the botched police raid that led to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black EMT, said that there was no forced entry when in fact Taylor was killed when officers forced their way into her home on March 13, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Taylor was struck by bullets six times after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired one shot at officers serving a warrant. Walker later said he believed the officers to be intruders.

A preliminary Louisville Metro Police Department internal report prepared on the raid that led to Taylor’s death suggested that officers violated department rules by opening fire, even after an officer was hit.

The officers, the investigator wrote, “took a total of thirty-two shots, when the provided circumstances made it unsafe to take a single shot. This is how the wrong person was shot and killed.”

No officers involved in the raid were charged directly in Taylor’s death.

One of the officers at the scene, Brett Hankison, is expected to stand trial in 2022 on charges of wanton endangerment for allegedly firing into an adjacent occupied apartment, according to the state attorney general. Hankison, who was fired in June 2020, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Two other detectives connected to the incident, Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes, were fired in January.

Walter Scott

In 2015, Walter Scott, 50, was pulled over for a broken taillight by former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager.

According to a police report, Slager engaged in a foot pursuit and used his stun gun before shooting Scott.

Slager fired eight shots, five of which struck Scott. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Slager claimed he shot Scott because he feared for his life after Scott grabbed his Taser.

But cellphone video taken by a bystander captured Slager chasing Scott. Prosecutors say not only did that video show Slager firing at Scott’s back from 17 feet away, but that it showed him dropping his Taser by Scott’s body.

In court two years later, Slager admitted to using excessive force, acknowledged that he didn’t shoot Scott in self-defense and said his use of force was unreasonable. He pleaded guilty to depriving Scott of his civil rights under the color of law.

In exchange for the 2017 plea, state murder charges, as well as two other federal charges, were dismissed.

He is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Laquan McDonald

In the wake of Laquan McDonald’s 2014 fatal shooting by a police officer, 11 Chicago police officers were accused of making false statements to exaggerate the threat he posed. And a former lieutenant who led the shooting investigation allegedly destroyed handwritten notes from witness interviews, the investigative report from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson revealed in 2019.

Police initially said McDonald, a Black teenager, approached officers while armed with a knife and refused verbal commands to drop it, prompting Jason Van Dyke to open fire six seconds after getting out of his squad car. He shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014.

Thirteen months later, a judge ordered the release of the grainy dashboard police camera footage of the shooting, and the fallout was immediate. The footage showed McDonald walking away from officers, rather than charging at them.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and was sentenced to 81 months in prison. Four officers were fired and three others were found not guilty on charges of covering up details from the killing.

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