NEW IBERIA — A group of pastors and community activists on Wednesday called on two-term Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal to resign from office following media reports detailing allegations of abuse at the hands of his deputies.
Barring Ackal’s resignation, which seems unlikely, the group called on Iberia Parish voters to oust him in elections this fall and to speak out about abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers.
“The only reason you are not being heard is that you are not yelling loud enough,” said the Rev. John W. Milton, pastor at the Imani Temple in Lafayette and a local attorney.
He was joined by seven others at a news conference Wednesday at Zion Hill Christian Fellowship Church in New Iberia, including Victor White Sr., whose 22-year-old son died in the back of a Sheriff’s Office cruiser last year in an incident that attracted national attention.
Iberia Parish Coroner Dr. Carl Ditch ruled that Victor White III died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his chest while handcuffed, a finding that White’s family members and civil rights activists have questioned.
The Justice Department is investigating the death.
In an unrelated case that prompted a separate federal investigation, a former deputy pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor civil rights charge for using excessive force against a handcuffed man.
The Advocate detailed several other allegations of abuse in a recent series of stories this month that brought attention to a video of an Iberia Parish corrections officer attacking a prone inmate with the help of a dog and detailed payouts of more than $1 million to settle lawsuits filed against the Sheriff’s Office since Ackal took the helm in 2008.
The deputy in the video has since been fired and Ackal has confirmed that federal authorities have subpoenaed the footage, which appears to have been captured by a jail security camera.
White said he feels Ackal has not taken the rash of allegations seriously nor taken full responsibility for the actions of his employees.
“It should fall on him because he is the sheriff of Iberia Parish,” White said.
Wednesday’s event was organized by the Rev. Raymond Brown, president of the New Orleans-based National Action Now civil rights group.
Brown said he also hopes to organize a major rally in New Iberia in October but has just begun planning the event.
“We feel that Ackal has done irreparable harm to this community,” Brown said.
Ackal did not return a call to his office seeking comment.
His office’s designated spokesman did not respond to two emails seeking comment.
Other media outlets reported Wednesday that Ackal said it would be a “cold day in hell” before he resigns.