L AFAYETTE — The U.S. Justice Department’s announcement that it is investigating the death of Victor White III marks the second time in a year for federal officials to look into an incident involving the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
White’s death has attracted national attention, with much of the recent focus on a Coroner’s Office ruling that the 22-year-old New Iberia man shot himself while handcuffed and in the back of a Sheriff’s Office cruiser on March 2.
“This tragic incident deserves a full review of the evidence; our objective is to discover the truth,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in a written statement Tuesday.
She said the federal investigation will supplement the current investigation by State Police, who were called in at the request of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.
The announcement of the federal involvement comes about 10 months after Ackal asked the FBI to investigate an earlier allegation that a deputy kicked and clubbed a handcuffed man when responding to a street party in New Iberia on Sept. 29. The incident, which followed the annual Sugar Cane Festival, was captured on video that surfaced days later on YouTube.
FBI spokeswoman Mary Beth Romig confirmed Wednesday that the FBI has completed the investigation of the Sept. 29 incident and has presented its findings to the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
She declined further comment.
The local U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond Wednesday to questions about the status of that case.
The deputy, who the Sheriff’s Office has not identified, was fired last year after an internal probe.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ryan Turner said Ackal has not been contacted by federal officials about the results of their investigation.
In the White case, Turner said, the FBI informed Ackal of their investigation on Wednesday morning.
“He (Ackal) definitely welcomes the FBI looking into the issue,” Turner said.
Iberia Parish Coroner Dr. Carl Ditch has ruled White’s death a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest — to the right of his right nipple. The gunshot wound occurred while White’s hands were cuffed behind him following his arrest after a fight late March 2, when a deputy reportedly found illegal drugs on him.
Finley said FBI agents “have been working parallel with the current investigation” by State Police and that the FBI, along with attorneys in her office and those with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, will review the State Police report.
She 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.”
On Monday, White’s parents and others held a news conference in New Orleans asking the Justice Department to get involved.