After two years of stonewalling, Louisiana officials finally agreed to release all the body camera footage of Ronald Greene's arrest.
AP’s Jim Mustian already had it.
When Ronald Greene died just after midnight on May 10, 2019, Louisiana State Police troopers initially blamed the Black man’s death on injuries from a crash at the end of a high-speed chase. Police would later issue a one-page statement saying Greene became unresponsive in a struggle with troopers and died on his way to the hospital.
And for the most part, that was all the public would know about the case, until Associated Press reporter Jim Mustian came along.
Since his reporting began nine months ago, he’s broken a string of stories revealing that there was more to the story, that the federal government had launched its own investigation and that one of the troopers was recorded bragging he beat the “ever-living f---" out of Greene. But Mustian always knew that for the story to truly make an impact, he needed to get his hands on one crucial piece of evidence: video.
This past week, Mustian did just that, obtaining a 46-minute body camera recording that showed Greene repeatedly apologizing and pleading for mercy as troopers jolted him with stun guns, put him in a choke hold, punched him in the face and dragged him by his ankle shackles.
“I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!” Ronald Greene can be heard screaming in one of several excerpts published by the AP. By the end of the encounter on a dark roadside in northern Louisiana, Greene was bruised, bloodied and motionless, his head slumped onto his chest.
Mustian’s scoop was, by far, the most explosive break yet in Greene’s case. And finally, it was making that impact, leading national newscasts and websites, fronting newspapers across the country and prompting The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and others to write their own matcher versions of Mustian’s story that had no choice but to credit AP’s reporting and the video, again and again.
Rachel Maddow was among several cable television hosts who devoted extensive time to the story, recounting Mustian’s scoops over the past several months and noting that when his exclusive broke Monday, “it stopped the news in its tracks. ... you can’t really move on after you’ve seen something like this.” When she played segments of the video on the air, she was overcome with emotion.
Louisiana officials from Gov. John Bel Edwards on down had repeatedly rebuffed efforts to release the body camera footage for more than two years. But last Friday, after Mustian came out with a follow-up exclusive with yet another 30-minute body camera video that showed troopers ordering a shackled Greene to stay face-down on the ground, state officials finally gave in.
They announced under pressure that they would release all the body camera video they had on Ronald Greene. There was just one problem: Mustian had already obtained everything they were releasing.
As with any sensitive project, this was an AP team effort that involved video journalist Angie Wang to put together cohesive packages with expert comment, photo editor Jon Elswick to carefully select stills, top stories editor Pete Brown to help shape the text, and digital editors Raghu Vadarevu and Dario Lopez to create an engaging presentation for the AP News app that seamlessly merged the video and text.
But in the end, this was a scoop that was the work of one dogged investigative reporter who never stopped pressing his sources and never stopped believing that the world should know what really happened to Ronald Greene.
For that we honor Jim Mustian with AP’s Best of the Week award.