Community leaders, local civil rights activists, and family of Victor White III have questioned how the 22-year-old died from a gunshot wound while handcuffed in the back of an Iberia Parish Sheriff’s deputy’s car. After more than a year, the Justice Department has concluded its investigation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice and the FBI reviewed all of the evidence gathered by State Police. That includes witness statements, crime scene video dispatch recordings, video footage from inside the patrol unit White was in and forensic reports. The Department of Justice also asked independent medical experts to review the autopsy performed by the state coroner. The FBI determined the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any officer fired a weapon at White.
In March 2014, Iberia deputies arrested White after they say they found cocaine and marijuana on him during a traffic stop.
White was handcuffed behind his back and put into the back seat of a patrol car. While in the car, a gun went off — and White was fatally shot.
State Police originally said White was shot in the back, but months later the coroner said White was shot in the chest. The coroner ruled White’s death a suicide, but White’s family refused to believe he killed himself and wanted it changed to homicide.
Investigators say the video shows White reaching around to his front pants pocket for a gun while handcuffed behind his back. The state coroner and federal medical experts agreed, White shot himself while handcuffed.
Gunshot residue was found on both of White’s hands. State police said the gun used in White’s death isn’t one used by Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Deputies.
Throughout the investigation, White’s family has expressed frustration over what they say was a lack of information from local law enforcement.
Sheriff Louis Ackal issued the following statement and photo on December 8, 2015:
In the beginning of this tragedy, I Sheriff Louis Ackal, immediately contacted the Louisiana State Police advising them to assist in the investigation involving Victor White III.
Today, December 8, at approximately 3:30 p.m., I received a phone call from the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport. They stated that they had met with the Victor White Family and were advised that their Son, Victor White III, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Their finding exonerates Lt. Jeffery Schmidt and Corporal Justin Ortis and no charges shall be filed.
This comes after months of parallel investigations by the Louisiana State Police and the FBI. I stand by my actions from the beginning of this tragedy, that I followed proper procedure to ensure a just outcome. I was also prepared to act accordingly regardless of the findings of the investigations.
I as Sheriff, waited for months for the results of this investigation as that is the proper thing to do. Again, my condolences to the White family for their tragic loss; however, I condemn the actions of those who attempted to make this tragic event a political issue.
As Sheriff, I have and will continue to do the job I was entrusted to do by the citizens of Iberia Parish.”