NEW IBERIA — Those who came to remember Victor White III on Friday night said he was a hard-working father of one whose death in March at age 22 came much too early.
White, who died while in the custody of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, would have turned 23 on Thursday.
The 70 or so who attended White’s memorial do not believe the official version of his death, that he shot himself to death in a police cruiser while his hands were cuffed behind his back.
“How does a man who got patted down twice end up with a gun?” Felton Polk asked. “How did he do that?”
The Iberia Parish coroner has ruled that White, who had been searched before he was arrested and handcuffed, shot himself with a gun in the right side of his chest.
Sheriff Louis Ackal turned the investigation over to State Police on March 3, hours after White was pronounced dead from a single gunshot wound. State Police have concluded the investigation and submitted their report to the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Phil Haney said in a news release that his prosecutors will hold on to the report and offer it to FBI agents who also are conducting an investigation.
Haney’s office and Sheriff Ackal at first said their representatives would meet with the White family, once the report was complete, to go over the findings. Recently, after U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley revealed a “parallel” federal investigation involving the FBI and the Justice Department, the District Attorney’s Office said it would hold off on a meeting with the Whites.
It was news Victor White Sr. and his wife Vanessa White did not want to hear.
“We think we’re entitled to see what’s in the report,” Victor White Sr. said Friday.
He named two sons Victor, with Victor III being the youngest of his nine children.
The Whites on Friday said there are many questions they want answered, simple ones like: Where exactly was their son shot? They know it was in the back seat of a squad car. But where was the car?
By the 7 p.m. start of Friday’s memorial, most stood with lighted candles listening to speakers express doubts about the official version of White’s death. Some wore T-shirts that expressed a message: No Justice No Peace. The Whites wore shirts that displayed their son’s image, and activist Khadijah Rashad wore a Free the Land New Afrikaner Freedom Movement shirt emblazoned with the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Jennifer Reed, who started the Justice for Victor White page on Facebook, told the crowd: “The case of Victor White’s untimely death is about us versus the system.”
She said White had no facial marks when he was arrested, but his face showed signs of abuse when his father identified him.
“Any one of us could have been Victor White,” she said.