- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Orleans Parish sheriff has asked state police to investigate a jail death that the coroner says was homicide.

Col. Mike Edmonson, the state police superintendent, said Sunday that his investigations commander will meet with Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s investigators on Monday to decide what to do.

Authorities have said 40-year-old Willie Lee collapsed and died within 90 minutes of a fight with another inmate on March 23.

Lee had a heart attack, but his death was ruled a homicide in a fight between inmates, Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse said in a statement Thursday.

Gusman wrote to Edmonson on Friday, saying his office is investigating Lee’s death but he also wants an independent investigation by state police.

“I assure you that all members of my staff will fully cooperate with your investigators and will provide any documentation or assistance needed,” he wrote.

Edmonson emailed a copy of Gusman’s letter to The Associated Press on Sunday.

“The sheriff called me on Friday and asked me to investigate. I asked him to put it in writing and send it to me. That’s what he did,” Edmonson said in a phone interview from Baton Rouge.

He said he wants to hear from anyone who’s investigating or plans to investigate Lee’s death.

“I don’t think we need a lot of duplication,” Edmonson said.

Lee had been jailed on two counts of unauthorized entry of an inhabited dwelling, two counts of criminal trespassing and one count of criminal damage to property.

The sheriff’s office said in March that he complained of difficulty breathing and collapsed 13 minutes after the fight.

A sheriff’s spokesman said at the time that a preliminary autopsy showed Lee died from extensive heart disease and not the altercation. Rouse didn’t mention heart disease as a contributing factor in his statement.

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A previous version of this article incorrectly said the state police superintendent would meet with the sheriff. A state police investigator will meet the sheriff’s investigators.


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