Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Gov. John Bel Edwards pushed back on the “utterly false and baseless allegations” that he misled the public about the 2019 death of Ronald Greene during a press conference Tuesday.

Edwards addressed allegations in a report by The Associated Press last week that revealed the governor received a text message about the deadly altercation about nine hours after it occurred on May 10, 2019 and failed to correct misleading statements from state police that Greene died in a car wreck.

The AP report alleged Edwards kept the truth under wraps for two years until the news wire obtained and published body-camera footage from the incident showing troopers jolting the 49-year-old with stun guns, punching him in the face and dragging him by his ankles.

Throughout the press conference, Edwards repeatedly stressed that “I have never said Mr. Greene died in a car accident” and objected to allegations his office attempted to delay or intervene in the investigation.

“That, too, is categorically false,” Edwards said. “There is not a shred of truth to that.”

The AP reported Edwards received a text message from Louisiana State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves at 10 a.m. on the day of the deadly altercation with state police near Monroe.

The text said state police attempted to stop a vehicle in Ouachita Parish and the driver led police on a high-speed chase in excess of 110 mph through two parishes before eventually crashing his vehicle.

“Troopers attempted to place the driver under arrest. But, a violent, lengthy struggle took place. After some time struggling with the suspect, troopers were joined by a Union Parish deputy and were able to take the suspect into custody,” the text read. “EMS was summoned to assess the suspect’s injuries. The suspect remained combative but became unresponsive shortly before EMS arrived. The suspect was later pronounced dead at the hospital.”

State police told the public and Greene’s family the 49-year-old died in the car crash. A coroner’s report also indicated Greene was killed in a motor vehicle accident, and state police did not mention troopers’ use of force during the incident.

The AP insinuated that Edwards kept mum to avoid a scandal during his re-election and alleged the governor or his staff attempted to influence or delay the investigation.

Edwards told the media Tuesday “it didn’t happen, but it doesn’t make any sense, either.”

Edwards noted the investigation was sent to the state prosecutor in August 2019, and it was referred to the Trump Justice Department “within weeks.”

“Obviously that is not part of a cover-up, that’s the exact opposite,” the governor said, adding that it was not in his best interests to forward the case to the “Trump Department of Justice at a time the president was coming to Louisiana to campaign against me.”

The AP report also claimed Edwards steered Louisiana Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, away from investigating the incident because “Greene died in a car wreck,” which the governor also denied.

Edwards said his relationship with Schexnayder has been strained since last year’s veto session, but he made the speaker and Senate president aware when he arranged for the Greene family and members of the Legislative Black Caucus to view police videos of Greene’s arrest last summer.

“The Speaker doesn’t ask me for permission to have a hearing, that’s just not how it works,” he said. “At no time have I said to anyone – in public or in private – that Mr. Greene died in a car wreck.”

An FBI investigation later attributed Greene’s death to a “physical struggle” and Greene’s use of cocaine.

Edwards referred questions about misleading statements from state police to Reeves but stressed that anyone who has knowingly misstated that Greene died in the car crash is “wrong” and “cannot be tolerated.”

He said state police are conducting an internal investigation regarding that aspect. State and federal investigations are also ongoing, as is a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Greene’s family. Edwards vowed to reach out to Greene’s mother in the aftermath of the controversy.

Edwards said he also disagrees with Schexnayder’s statement on Monday calling for an investigation into the alleged cover-up.

“I can’t tell you I welcome an investigation that’s an absolute witch hunt,” he said.

Originally published by The Center Square