Bakersfield attorney Benjamin R. Greene, at left in a photo posted on Facebook last month, died following a 5K run in 107-degree heat Tuesday evening at Hart Park.
The death of local attorney Benjamin R. Greene following a 5K run Tuesday evening prompted an outpouring of grief and shocked reaction online and from others in the legal profession.
“He was in great shape, living a clean lifestyle and being family-focused,” attorney Bobby Cloud, friends with Greene for seven years, said Wednesday.
“It’s just stunning,” he said.
Greene, 48, died after participating in a 5K run at Hart Park around 7 p.m. during which temperatures were still a torrid 107 degrees.
According to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Greene began experiencing medical complications during the run and went to a first aid station. He was receiving treatment when he collapsed.
An off-duty firefighter performed CPR on Greene until an ambulance arrived and rushed him to Kern Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 8:32 p.m.
Before the 5K, Greene wrote on Facebook regarding his unease about the run, sponsored by the Bakersfield Track Club.
“OK, well, I am nervous but here goes: a 5k run in 110 degree heat,” Greene wrote. “I have no idea how difficult this is going to be. I have never run long distance in heat like this.
“Maybe it won’t be as hard as I think. Or maybe it will be absolutely brutal.”
Nate Wren, who described Greene as his best friend, said he was with Greene throughout the entire run, acting as a support person, not a participant.
“He was well-hydrated,” Wren said.
Greene was not far from the end of the course, and told Wren he was glad of it, before he suddenly faltered, Wren said.
An off-duty nurse and a medical student alternated performing chest compressions on Greene until an ambulance arrived. Wren held Greene’s hand.
“It was bad,” Wren said. “It was so incredibly bad.”
Wren said he believes Greene would still be alive had a portable defibrillator been available. An ambulance should also have been stationed at the event, he said.
“I promised I would look after him,” Wren said.
Greene’s wife, Michelle Greene, posted on Facebook confirmation of her husband’s death and asked for privacy.
Cloud described Greene as someone who was fun to be around in the high-stress legal world. He said Greene’s main focus in life was his family, followed by working out and playing sports.
The two often met for lunch downtown before heading back to the courthouse.
“He had a great laugh,” Cloud said.
Defense attorney David A. Torres said Greene was a new attorney, just 22 years old, when he first met him. At that age, he said, Greene looked like Opie Taylor from “The Andy Griffith Show,” the only difference being he wore a suit and tie.
“He was a bright, intelligent individual,” Torres said. “I understood him to be a very aggressive attorney in court.”
Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman said he knew Greene professionally for “many, many” years. He said Greene learned his craft at the Public Defender’s office before establishing a “very successful” private defense practice.
“Benjamin was a ‘hard-nosed, client comes first, never give up’ defense attorney,” Cadman said. “He was not a paper pushing office lawyer who was afraid of trial. Benjamin would go toe to toe with any DA, and never backed down from any legal fight he believed in.”
Arturo Revelo, another attorney who worked with Greene in the Public Defender’s office, said everyone there loved him.
“He had these dreams and he was so happy, man,” Revelo, clearly shaken upon hearing of the death, said Wednesday morning. “He was witty and he was smart and he was an extraordinary man.”
“Jesus, how are we going to replace him?”
Friends and clients took to Facebook to express their sorrow.
“The world has lost an incredible human,” wrote Christine Rose. “There are no words.”
Bella Katalina wrote Greene was there for her through months of court appearances.
“May the heavens receive you with open gates and hold your family tight while they go through this horrible pain,” she wrote.
In another of the more than 80 posts left on Greene’s page as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Diana Powers wrote Greene’s love for his family was “unbelievable,” and it’s hard to believe he’s gone.
“Words cannot express the pain in my heart you will be missed but your name never forgot (sic),” she wrote.
Greene earned his law degree at Pepperdine University School of Law in 1992. He was a deputy public defender from 1994 to 1999, then opened his own practice.
Greene focused on family and criminal law and handled a number of notable cases over the years.
In 2015, he represented former KUZZ reporter Scott Thackrey, who pleaded no contest to a felony charge in connection with contacting someone on Facebook he believed was a 13-year-old girl and discussing the possibility of engaging in oral sex.
Also in 2015, Greene was able to get a new trial declared for James Eiland II, who had faced a life sentence after being convicted of multiple sex crimes. Greene said he presented a “mountain of exculpatory evidence” that Eiland’s previous attorney failed to present at trial.
Eiland pleaded no contest to one charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to four years in prison. Nine other charges were dismissed.
Greene enjoyed traveling. In February of this year he flew to Beijing, a trip he chronicled on Facebook with photographs of food and artwork, and descriptions of the culture.
He was planning a trip to Thailand, and on June 19 wrote he was studying and practicing Thai in preparation.
Many of his Facebook posts and photos centered on his children and working out. He expressed a desire to stay in shape, and posted numerous selfies taken after CrossFit, rugby and Muay Thai workouts.
In addition to his wife, Greene is survived by nine children, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family online: Cyrus, Laila, Bella, Joseph, Tyler, Taylor, Destiny, Jacob and Erica.
People who’d like to support the family financially can do so at www.gofundme .com/benjamin-greene-funeral-expenses.