Louisiana State Police leader retiring amid controversy
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The head of the Louisiana State Police will retire at the end of the month amid ongoing questions about his handling of the in-custody death of a Black man last year, a case that has drawn accusations of a cover-up and is now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation.
Col. Kevin Reeves’ official announcement Tuesday of his retirement suggested the move had been in the works since last year. It made no mention of the controversy surrounding the death of Ronald Greene, which has drawn protests and repeated calls for him to step down.
“I didn’t lose any confidence in Col. Reeves ... It wasn’t a surprise, nor was it anything that I asked for,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, told reporters after making the announcement. No replacement was immediately named.
State Police initially blamed Greene’s May 2019 death near Monroe on a car crash at the end of a high-speed chase. But an attorney for Greene’s family members told The Associated Press that body camera video of Greene’s encounter with State Police shows troopers choking and beating the man and dragging him face-down across pavement. The State Police and Edwards have refused to publicly release the footage, citing ongoing investigations.
In a 27-second audio clip of body-camera footage obtained by the AP from one of the responding officers, Master Trooper Chris Hollingsworth can be heard telling a colleague, “I beat the ever-living f--- out of him.” Graphic pictures of Greene’s body released by his family show deep bruises to his face and cuts on his head.
The State Police waited more than a year to discipline Hollingsworth, who died in a single-car crash last month just hours after learning he had been fired over his role in the incident. No other troopers who were on the scene of Greene’s death have been publicly reprimanded.
The Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP had planned another demonstration Tuesday calling for Reeves’ ouster, even as a tropical storm bore down on Louisiana.
The announcement came amid a flurry of controversies involving State Police. Earlier this month, a state trooper was indicted on battery and weapons charges, accused of shooting a 19-year-old man in the back during a 2018 traffic stop in Baton Rouge. And last month, Reeves apologized for his agency’s failure to discipline a trooper who was recorded using a racial epithet in a voice message sent to a Black colleague. Reeves insisted it was “an isolated incident.”
“Throughout my career, I have advocated for the men and women of the Louisiana State Police and the heroic work they do each and every day,” Reeves said in a statement. “They will always be family.”
Reeves, a 30-year veteran of State Police, leaves the agency in much the same fashion he took it over: immersed in controversy.
He took over three years ago after the retirement of Mike Edmonson, the longtime superintendent who became mired in a scandal over thousands of dollars troopers spent on a trip to a law enforcement conference and about a nonprofit trooper organization’s donations to political candidates despite bans on political contributions from troopers. A scathing audit released later found Edmonson lived a lavish lifestyle financed by misused state tax dollars, which Edmonson denied.
Lawmakers passed an exemption to Louisiana’s ethics code in 2017 to allow Reeves’ son to continue working as a state trooper despite his father’s promotion to superintendent. Trooper Kaleb Reeves was involved in a crash earlier this month that killed a child and a teenager.
Mustian reported from New York. Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte