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Black lawmakers demand 'full transparency' from governor, State Police in Greene death investigation

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BATON ROUGE - Members of the Legislative Black Caucus demanded transparency in the Ronald Greene death investigation during a closed-door meeting with Gov. John Bel Edwards Tuesday.

"I think the citizens of Louisiana deserve that as well," Rep. Edmond Jordan, a Democrat, and member of the Legislative Black Caucus said. "Anything less than full transparency is unacceptable."

Black lawmakers called for the meeting following days of silence from Edwards after the Associated Press was the first to report Friday Edwards was alerted of Greene's death, who at that time was unnamed, hours after his struggle with Louisiana State Police.

"I think it was a meeting that, you know, we had to have," Jordan said. "Of course, when anybody brings out allegations about misdeeds, we need to have transparency."

After that meeting, Edwards made his first public statements since the AP report, pushing back on allegations he may have known more than he let on immediately following Greene's death in May 2019.

"I will reiterate that in 2019 all I knew was that an incident had occurred, that it was being investigated," Edwards told reporters Tuesday.

Edwards repeatedly denied interfering with any investigation or ever maintaining, privately or publicly, that Greene died in a car wreck, as State Police first claimed.

According to the Associated Press, Rep. Clay Schexnayder, the Republican Speaker of the House, was told by Edwards in June "there was no need for further action from the legislature because 'Greene died in a wreck.'"

Edwards again pushed back, saying Tuesday, Schexnayder's comments were "just not true."

Edwards labeled Tuesday's meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus as "serious."

"Obviously, this is a very serious and weighty topic," Edwards said. "I will tell you, there is a lot of concern in the Black Caucus about the work yet to be done, that has to be done, in the State Police."

Parts of the conversation, according to some lawmakers, were uncomfortable.

"I don't know if you would use the word comfortable," Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, a Democrat, said. "I think those conversations had to be had. There [were] questions by the caucus, and the governor certainly responded to our questions."

One of those questions focused on the May 10, 2019 text message from then-State Police superintendent, Colonel Kevin Reeves, to Edwards hours after the "violent, lengthy struggle" with Greene.

"We want[ed] him to respond to the text message," Marcelle said. "He did do that. He said that that was typical of any message that he would get from State Police."

Edwards shared similar reasoning with the media after the meeting. Marcelle raised apprehension about that practice moving forward.

"I'm certainly concerned that we handle that differently in the future," she said.

The Associated Press obtained audio from Edwards' meeting with Black Lawmakers, where the governor apologized for not making more progress within State Police and questioned the speed of the ongoing federal probe.

As for State Police, both Marcelle and Jordan say they still aren't satisfied with how the agency has handled Greene's death and the subsequent investigation.

"I'm not that confident right now, as long as we still have people that were involved in Ronald Greene's death still on the payroll and getting promoted," Jordan said. For me, that's a huge, red flag."

To watch a timeline of the WBRZ Investigative Unit's exhaustive reporting into Greene's death, click here.

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