Victor White III allegedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound earlier this month while in the custody of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, but what doesn’t add up (at least not yet) is that he was handcuffed at the time of the shooting.
The 22-year-old White was arrested by the sheriff’s office March 2, after deputies responded to a fight and discovered he was in possession of illegal narcotics, according to a press release issued by Louisiana State Police, which is investigating the shooting.
According to the release:
White was taken into custody, handcuffed behind his back, and transported to the ... Sheriff’s Office for processing. Once at the Sheriff’s Office, White became uncooperative and refused to exit the deputy’s vehicle. As the deputy requested assistance from other deputies, White produced a handgun and fired one round striking himself in the back.
Shortly after, White was pronounced dead, and his case has since raised a number of questions: How did the deputy find drugs, but not a handgun during frisking? How was White able to get his hands on the gun and successfully pull the trigger while in cuffs? Did the gun belong to White or the arresting deputy? Is there surveillance footage of the incident, either from inside the patrol car or from cameras located in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office?
|Victor White III|
So far, only one of those questions has been answered: There is no video footage, according to an interview between the Acadiana Advocate and Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Anthony Green. The IND reached out to Green, but he deferred comment to State Police.
According to State Police spokesman Trooper Stephen Hammons, who spoke by phone Tuesday with The IND, the investigation into White’s death is ongoing.
Asked whether the gun belonged to White or the arresting deputy, Hammons says that’s something investigators are looking into, as is the potential for someone to shoot themselves while their hands are cuffed behind their back.
“It’s difficult to speculate as to the details of how it would occur, but certainly our investigators are looking into that,” says Hammons. “We’ve investigated in-custody deaths before, and each case is unique in the length of time it takes to investigate. We’ll work out all the facts and present what we find to the [district attorney’s] office. To say when the investigation will be complete would just be speculation.”
Surprisingly, White’s case is not unique, as at least two similar incidents have been reported in recent years, the first involving Chavis Carter, who after being arrested in Jonesboro, Ark., for possession of marijuana, shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser in 2012. The next incident involved Jesus Huerta, a North Carolina teenager who also died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser on Nov. 19, 2013.
|Rev. Raymond Brown of National Action Now New Orleans|
To defend the arresting deputy in the Huerta case, Durham Police Chief Anthony Marsh, according to a report by the New York Post, used the Chavis Carter case to show how a person could shoot themselves while handcuffed, saying, “Not only can it be done, it has been done.”
What the chief failed to mention was that Carter died from a gunshot wound to the right temple, but according to a report by Gawker, his mother claims her son was a lefty.
Like the Huerta and Chavis cases, the peculiar circumstances surrounding White's death have drawn protests from family members. In an interview with MadamNoire, White's sister, Keisha Davis, spoke out: "They have issued a statement that he shot himself, but we know that's not true. We will not stop until justice is served." The family has since reached out to Rev. Raymond Brown of National Action Now New Orleans.
"They claim they have no camera out there by the lock-up area, so our position is there's nothing we can do but accuse you of murder," Brown tells The IND in a phone interview.
For Brown, State Police is not the proper authority to investigate White's death.
"We need an independent investigation on matters like this, an investigation that leaves no table un-turned and leaves the people without any suspicion of a cover-up," says Brown. "We think the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate these types of deaths."
Brown says his organization and the NAACP are organizing a rally in New Iberia to raise awareness and protest the handling of White's death.
"We impress upon the white community to get involved with us and help fight this evil coming out of this community," says Brown.