More than a year after the death of 22-year-old Victor White III in the back of a police car in New Iberia, White’s family says they have yet to hear a full account of what happened to him.
At a Southern University talk Wednesday night, scheduled to call attention to the anniversary of their son’s death, his parents shared frustration over how their son’s case has been handled as the Iberia Parish Coroner ruled the death a suicide, and State Police and the FBI have opened investigations.
“We have absolutely no intention to rest until these families receive justice and at least get a decent logical answer (about) the deaths of their children,” said the White family’s attorney, Carol Powell-Lexing, who drew parallels between White’s death and the deaths of other black men who died while in police custody.
Officials have yet to release an updated account of what happened to White, who was sitting in the back of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back when he was shot once in the side of his chest and killed, officials have said.
White had been handcuffed and placed into a patrol car on March 2, 2014, after Iberia Parish deputies responded to reports of a fight. But when deputies drove him to the Sheriff’s Office, they say he refused to get out of the car and then shot himself. He died the next day.
White’s death has baffled his family, who have alleged White was patted down twice before being led into the car. They also said that he was planning to move into an apartment with his girlfriend and their infant child.
“There is nothing logical, nothing explainable, about how (White) died,” said another attorney for the White family, Benjamin Crump, who was an also an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family. “It’s stupid to even try to explain it.”
Details of what happened remain sparse — the State Police and the FBI investigations have not been made public.
Officials have since said the gun used in the shooting is not used by the Sheriff’s Office — but the ensuing confusion over further details has outraged activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, who dubbed the law enforcement account “an insult to the intelligence of this state” while speaking at Southern University in September.
For White’s father, Victor White Sr., the frustration over the lack of details in his son’s death — and the pain of losing him — haven’t lessened with time.
“We’re still looking for answers,” White said on Wednesday night. “We do want answers. There’s a hole there, and an emptiness.”
The incident also spurred a wrongful death lawsuit that Powell-Lexing filed last week. The suit alleges that Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal failed to train his deputies adequately and also claims a deputy beat White while he was being arrested.
Also sharing their stories on Wednesday night were the mothers of sons whose deaths sparked high-profile investigations.
The mother of Chavis Carter described her grief and anger when her son also died from a gunshot to the head in Jonesboro, Arkansas, after he had reportedly been patted down twice.
“They expect me to believe that my son killed himself. Why, for a dimebag of weed?” Theresa Carter said.
Jacquelyn Johnson also described her frustration after her son Kendrick Johnson, who she described as active and who played three sports, was found in a rolled-up gym mat in January 2013. The death was ruled as accidental.
“We all know better,” she said.
The FBI is already investigating an Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office incident from New Iberia’s Sugar Cane Festival in 2013 that involved a deputy recorded on video kicking and clubbing a handcuffed man.
Follow Daniel Bethencourt on Twitter, @_dbethencourt.