- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 2, 2014

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - The Justice Department says federal investigators are looking into the death of a 23-year-old New Iberia man whose fatal gunshot wound was incurred while handcuffed and in police custody.

The shooting was ruled self-inflicted.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in an emailed release Tuesday that a federal investigation in the March 2 death of Victor White III “was ongoing.” She did not say when the probe began.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1vL2h3o) Finley said the federal investigation will supplement “rather than supplant” the current investigation being conducted by Louisiana State Police.

White’s family has disputed the coroner’s findings. Finley said the family has received assurances that the matter will be investigated fully.

“This tragic incident deserves a full review of the evidence; our objective is to discover the truth,” Finley said.

Dr. Carl Ditch, the Iberia Parish coroner, ruled that White’s death was suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest - to the right of his right nipple - while his hands were cuffed behind him.

White was arrested after a fight, when a deputy reportedly found illegal drugs on him. White was transported to the sheriff’s office in New Iberia for arrest processing when he became uncooperative, and was in the back seat of the deputy’s car when he was shot, state police said.

Sheriff Louis Ackal asked state police to investigate March 3. Iberia Parish officials have not released the identities of the deputies who arrested, searched and transported White to the sheriff’s office for processing.

State police are now completing their report, Master Trooper Brooks David said Tuesday.

Once it’s finished, it’ll be given to the District Attorney’s Office, which with state police will meet with the White family to go over the findings, David said.

David said he was not aware before late Tuesday of federal involvement in the case.

He said the role of state police remains the same: “We still collect the facts and all of the evidence.”

Finley said FBI agents “have been working parallel with the current investigation.”

She said the FBI, along with attorneys in her office and those with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, will review the state police report.

Finley said federal officials “will determine what additional investigation, if any, is necessary to determine who fired the fatal shot, and whether the evidence demonstrates a willful civil rights violation.”

“Our review will take time to complete,” Finley said.

White’s family has enlisted civil rights attorney Carol Powell-Lexing, a Monroe lawyer who was part of the legal team representing members of the Jena Six in 2007 and 2008. Efforts to contact Powell-Lexing for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

White’s parents, Powell-Lexing and others asked the Justice Department to get involved at a news conference recently. In the notice of the conference, the Whites and their attorney said they did not believe the findings of the Coroner’s Office.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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