LAFAYETTE — The Iberia Parish coroner has concluded that a handcuffed man in the back seat of an Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office patrol unit shot himself to death in March.
Dr. Carl Ditch said Victor White III, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, was pronounced dead a few hours after a single bullet struck him on March 2. He was 22.
Ditch has refused to publicly release the full autopsy of White’s body but issued a summary on Monday describing his office’s findings. In a separate news release, Ditch also described White dying from a “single contact gunshot wound to the right lateral chest,” adding that he concluded the shooting was a suicide.
“Although the decedent was handcuffed at the time with his hands to his back, … the pathologist and investigators agree that he would have been able to manipulate the weapon to the point where the contact entrance wound was found,” Ditch said in a statement Monday.
White had just been arrested after allegedly being involved that night, a Sunday, in a fight that occurred in the 300 block of Lewis Street. White and a deputy were parked at the Sheriff’s Office when the gun went off.
White was pronounced dead at 1:13 a.m. March 3, a few hours after he was shot.
The summary report of the autopsy performed on the afternoon of March 3 describes a bullet entry at the “anterior/lateral chest,” or an entry on the front right of the side of the chest, just to the right of the nipple. The bullet traveled “slightly front to back, slightly upward” and from right to left, piercing the middle lobe of White’s right lung and going through his heart, then through the left lung before it exited his left armpit. The bullet was not recovered in White’s body, according to the report.
The report also noted that White had abrasions on his left upper face and eye, and that a toxicology examination found alcohol and marijuana in his body.
Efforts Monday to contact White’s family for comment were unsuccessful, but a fundraiser page on the GoFundMe website that appears to be set up by family indicates they are skeptical of the autopsy findings. The page is seeking money to pay for an independent autopsy.
Sheriff Louis Ackal in March asked State Police detectives to investigate the shooting.
State Police Master Trooper Brooks David said state investigators have had to wait to get evidence in the case, such as the autopsy.
“Most of that evidence has come in along with the coroner’s report,” David said. He said the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office would soon get the complete investigative report for a review.
David also has said detectives have determined that the gun that killed White was not a weapon used by deputies.
The deputy who transported White to the Sheriff’s Office the night of March 2 reported that White was being uncooperative when he was told to get out of the car. State Police in March said the deputy was calling for help in removing White from the car when the gun fired.
The day after the shooting, State Police reported that deputies found illegal drugs on White before cuffing him.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Ryan Turner said Monday that the department has no comment on the autopsy and White’s death, citing the arm’s length distance the Sheriff’s Office has taken in the investigation.
In his news release, Ditch said he gave White’s family a copy of the full autopsy findings on August 14. In a news release, Ditch said his suicide conclusion was based on “forensic evidence” and information from the State Police investigation.
He said he did not issue a news release to media because of a policy of not giving out details of a suicide.
“Due to events since that time, however, I feel this press release is necessary,” Ditch said. He apparently was referring to publicity about the case generated in recent days, as stories about the autopsy have appeared in various online news outlets.
Ditch said he would not comment further.