LAFAYETTE — Iberia Parish prosecutors and State Police will share with the FBI information they have about the death of Victor White III and will hold off meeting with White’s family until federal investigators have completed their probe.
Prosecutors’ decision not to talk to the family now, announced Monday by the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, was a blow to family members still reeling from the death of the 22-year-old, White family attorney Carol Powell-Lexing said.
“The family is highly upset,” she said. She said they want to know what State Police have discovered about the death of their son.
White died from a single gunshot to the side of his chest while his hands were handcuffed behind his back after he was arrested by Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies March 2. White was in the backseat of a squad car when the gun went off.
The Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office has ruled that White committed suicide by shooting himself.
On March 3, the day after White was shot, Sheriff Louis Ackal asked State Police to investigate.
“We feel the troopers’ investigation should be different from the federal investigation,” Powell-Lexing said.
The 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and State Police said recently that they would meet with the Whites to go over the investigative report once it is completed. But after State Police handed their report to prosecutors on Friday, the plans changed. And the Whites are upset.
“The DA’s Office should have kept their word,” Powell-Lexing said.
Prosecutors in New Iberia will share the findings in the State Police report with the FBI and the Justice Department, District Attorney Phil Haney’s office said in a news release Monday.
Those federal agencies are conducting an investigation into whether White’s civil rights were violated, Stephanie Finley, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, announced last week. Finley said the FBI has been conducting a “parallel” investigation into White’s death.
Finley did not respond Monday to a request for further comment.
The District Attorney’s Office said in the Monday release that it was the White family who requested federal involvement, and that prosecutors “look forward to those federal authorities working jointly and cooperatively with the Louisiana State Police.
“Of course, in the end, we all have the same objective: discovering the facts and truth,” the release said. “We too want to have the benefit of their (federal) investigative efforts to assist us in our decision-making process.”
How White died and the mystery surrounding it — how could a man who’d been searched and handcuffed like that shoot himself? — has attracted national attention. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, has expressed his disbelief at the official version of how White died. Sharpton spoke about the White case at a rally last week at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
State Police in March initially reported that White shot himself in the back while he was handcuffed.
In a summary of the autopsy last month, the parish coroner, Dr. Carl Ditch, offered a different account, saying the bullet entered the side of White’s chest.
Master Trooper Brooks David said Monday that there was a mistake made in the initial news release about the incident.
David said state investigators quickly learned White had not been shot in the back, but officials did not release the correct information immediately.
“To keep the integrity of the case, we don’t release every detail” as it is discovered, David said.