At first, police told Ronald Greene’s loved ones that he died in a car accident — plowing into a tree late one night in 2019 after driving past a traffic stop, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family.

Video told a different story, and a familiar one to critics of a state police department plagued by allegations of excessive force against drivers of color.

Body-camera footage published by the Associated Press — withheld for two years by authorities — captures Greene wailing and saying, “I’m sorry!” as Louisiana state troopers violently arrest him, deploying what the AP identifies as a stun gun after the Black man appears to raise his hands inside his car. Troopers later punch Greene in the face, drag him briefly by his shackled ankles and leave him to moan alone while handcuffed for more than nine minutes, according to the AP.

“I’m scared! I’m scared! … I’m scared!” the 49-year-old yells while bent over in the front seat. “I’m your brother. I’m scared!”

Excessive force left Greene “beaten, bloodied, and in cardiac arrest,” his family’s wrongful-death lawsuit states. Medics found him unresponsive, it says, and he was pronounced dead minutes after arriving at a hospital, but it took months for the state police to open an internal investigation.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family, said he hopes the leaked footage will push leaders to hold the troopers involved accountable as the Justice Department reviews the case. Greene’s loved ones had already seen the video, but authorities have refused to make it public while inquiries are pending. Merritt said officials have tried to minimize and bury what led up to Greene’s death.

“This was a malicious attack on the side of the road on a fully surrendered man,” he said in an interview, calling for criminal consequences.

Body-camera footage published by the Associated Press shows Louisiana state troopers violently arresting Ronald Greene in May 2019. (AP)

The Louisiana State Police did not dispute AP’s characterizations of the body-camera footage Wednesday and declined to share the video, saying federal and state authorities are still reviewing Greene’s death. The AP posted clips from what it said was 46 minutes of one trooper’s body-camera footage.

“The premature public release of investigative files and video evidence in this case is not authorized and was not obtained through official sources,” spokesman Nick Manale wrote in an email to The Washington Post. He added that such release “undermines the investigative process and compromises the fair and impartial outcome for the Greene family, LSP employees, and the community.”

The Justice Department said Wednesday evening that it has an open criminal investigation of the incident involving FBI agents, its Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana. The department “will take appropriate action” if it finds that any federal crimes were committed, it said.

Merritt noted that the Justice Department has become more “active” under the Biden administration — announcing high-profile hate-crime charges and opening investigations of heavily scrutinized police departments.

“The trend that I’m seeing in 2021 in particular — it gives me hope in this case,” he said.

Lawyers for the troopers involved in the arrest either declined to comment or did not respond to The Post’s inquiries on Wednesday. The Post could reach only one of the troopers, Kory York, who referred questions to his attorney, Jay Adams. “We have no comment at this time on this pending litigation,” Adams said in an email.

Troopers filmed with Greene appear to be White, and the AP describes them as White.

The body-cam release comes as filmed arrests that have gone viral on social media bring fears of “driving while Black” into the limelight. Earlier this year, a Virginia officer was fired amid a public outcry after a body camera showed police pepper-spraying and striking a Black Army officer during a traffic stop. The Louisiana State Police in particular, including a trooper who helped apprehend Greene, are accused of abusing their authority repeatedly.

Greene was driving his silver Toyota along a highway in Monroe, La., about midnight on May 10, 2019, according to his family’s lawsuit. The body-cam video shows trooper Dakota DeMoss chasing Greene down a highway at more than 115 mph, the AP reported.

“We got to do something,” DeMoss said over his radio, according to the AP, just before police caught with Greene. “He’s going to kill somebody.”

DeMoss has said he tried to stop Greene after observing an unspecified “traffic violation,” the lawsuit from Greene’s family states. It says Greene eventually swerved and crashed into a wooded area but did not hit a tree. The air bag did not deploy, the suit says, and Greene was uninjured and able to leave the car on his own.

Video obtained by the AP shows Greene putting at least one hand up inside his car as troopers approach and shout with expletives, “Let me see your … hands!” Then, the door is flung open, and soon Greene is recoiling. It is hard to make out what exactly is happening at times during the dark, chaotic footage — but Greene’s pleas come through clearly.

“Oh, Lord!” he screams.

Troopers get Greene on the ground and struggle with him, with one man saying Greene is grabbing him, the AP reported. But they use force even when Greene is apparently restrained and compliant, according to the AP’s footage, with one trooper dragging him on his stomach.

One puts Greene in a chokehold, the AP reported, and another calls him “stupid,” adding a profanity. He is given repeated shocks.

“You’re about to get it again if you don’t put your … hands behind your back,” a man shouts at one point.

“I’m sorry!” Greene responds from the ground, facedown, as police attempt to handcuff him.

When Greene is shackled and cuffed, police leave him unattended, bloody and still facing the ground, according to the AP.

“Blood all over,” a man says in the posted video. “I hope this guy ain’t got … AIDS.”

Trooper Chris Hollingsworth would later admit to beating Greene in a profanity-laced recording obtained by the AP.

“Choked him and everything else trying to get him under control,” Hollingsworth said, the news agency reported. He described a prolonged struggle with Greene, who he said “was spitting blood everywhere and all of a sudden ... just went limp.”

DeMoss got a “letter of counseling” and a “letter of reprimand,” according to the state police. He was found to have violated rules on “courtesy” and body-worn or car cameras, officials said. Another trooper was found to have violated rules on body-worn cameras and treatment of people in custody and got a 50-hour suspension.

Hollingsworth was set to be fired last fall, but died in a single-vehicle crash shortly after learning his intended punishment, the AP reported.

The Louisiana State Police have come under scrutiny for allegedly abusing their power with other drivers.

In February, the department announced that it had charged four members of “Troop F” after an excessive-force investigation, citing a July 2019 traffic stop and a May 2020 car chase. All were placed on administrative leave pending investigations, authorities said, after the troopers used unjustifiable force, deactivated their body-worn cameras, gave false statements about a suspect’s “alleged resistance” and falsified reports.

Among those arrested was DeMoss, one of the troopers who apprehended Greene. Court filings recently drew new attention to his and other troopers’ roles in the alleged beating of another Black man, Antonio Harris, 29.

“He’s gonna have nightmares for a long time,” DeMoss texted colleagues as members of Troop F bragged about the “whoopin’ ” they gave Harris after he surrendered following a high-speed chase, according to court documents.

“Warms my heart knowing we could educate that young man,” a fellow trooper replied.

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in an interview Wednesday that she wants the Justice Department to investigate the Louisiana State Police — starting with Troop F.

The latest body-cam video “is irrefutable videographic evidence of an epidemic of excessive force,” said Odoms, whose organization has been calling for the video’s release.

“It provides to the public — in the same way that the George Floyd video did — the necessary kind of tangible and frankly gruesome and infuriating kind of proof of what our community members have known inherently and anecdotally for too long,” Odoms said.

Reis Thebault and Timothy Bella contributed to this report.

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