Group wants Department of Justice to investigate suicide

Police agencies remained tight-lipped about the Sunday night death of a handcuffed man who reportedly shot himself while seated in a Iberia Parish sheriff’s patrol unit, a case that is prompting a New Orleans-based civil rights leader to ask the federal government to investigate the death.

“We feel that State Police is not the appropriate law enforcement agency to deal with this issue,” said the Rev. Raymond Brown, leader of the New Orleans branch of National Action Now, a civil rights organization. “They are not to be trusted.”

Brown said his organization will ask the federal Department of Justice to take over the investigation into the death of Victor White III.

State Police is investigating the case at the request of Sheriff Louis Ackal. Trooper 1st Class Stephen Hammons said the investigation would be thorough.

“We’re going to gather all the facts and forward our findings to the District Attorney’s Office,” Hammons said.

Hammons would not estimate when the report would be completed.

White, 22, was arrested Sunday night by sheriff’s deputies who had responded to a fight in the 300 block of Lewis Street in New Iberia and arrested White on counts of illegal drug possession, according to a statement released by State Police on Monday.

According to State Police, White’s hands were handcuffed behind his back, he was placed in the patrol unit’s back seat and then driven to the Sheriff’s Office for processing.

After arriving at the Sheriff’s Office, White refused a deputy’s order to get out of the vehicle. As the deputy radioed other deputies for assistance to remove White from the car, White reportedly brandished a weapon and shot himself in the back. Doctors at a local hospital later pronounced White dead, State Police said.

Brown said his National Action Now organization would hold a rally in front of the Iberia Parish Courthouse in New Iberia at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Brown said he’d also demand firing the deputy who found drugs on White and arrested him.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Brown said. “How can you find the drugs and not the gun?”

Lt. Anthony Green, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the agency would not release the name of the arresting deputy nor say whether the deputy had been placed on leave.

Brown said video surveillance equipment at the Sheriff’s Office could shed light on what happened.

“These videos should show what took place,” he said. “A video camera would solve the problem.”

Green said there are no cameras located in the area where White was shot.

Green then said the Sheriff’s Office would remain silent until State Police release its report.