Who's lying: the Iberia Parish Sheriff or Victor White III's autopsy report?

by Patrick Flanagan

The recent release of Victor White III's autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.

The recent release of Victor White III's autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.

Victor White III

That story, the one used by the sheriff's office five months ago, starts with an alleged fight in a convenience store parking lot near White's home in New Iberia. Deputies say they found illegal narcotics on the 22-year-old black man, so he was arrested on possession and taken in for booking. But White's story, the one given five months ago by law enforcement, ends right after his arrival at the sheriff's office, when he's said to have refused to exit the back seat of the deputy's cruiser.

The deputy ran for help, and White, in a feat of human elasticity, is alleged to have pulled out a handgun that was somehow undetected during frisking, and with his hands still in cuffs behind his back, fired off a round into his back. White died shortly after, leaving the deputies on the scene as the only witnesses to the incident. The sheriff's office maintains there are no surveillance cameras in that area of the parking lot.

As an in-custody death, Louisiana State Police was immediately called in for an investigation, and everyone has since been mum.

The story took a dramatic turn late last week with the release of White's autopsy by the Iberia Parish Coroner's Office, according to a report Thursday from Vice magazine's Wilbert L. Cooper, who has been following the story since March.

The autopsy by Christopher Tate, a forensic pathologist with the coroner's office, reveals a number of glaring holes in the deputies' account of White's death, starting with a change in the cause of death from accidental shooting to suicide.

The report also shows that White was killed from a gunshot wound that entered the right side of his chest, tearing through his left lung and heart and exiting through his left armpit, leaving the upper arm with lacerations - a much different scenario than the handcuffed man who shot himself in the back as deputies claimed.

The autopsy further reveals that White suffered from some sort of blow to the face, listed on the report as two upper facial abrasions near his left eye.

In an article posted in the weeks after the shooting, Vice's Cooper reports on a conversation with White's father, Victor White Sr. From that conversation, which came way before the autopsy's release, here's what White says about his son and the deputies who arrested him: "I know they beat him before he arrived at the station, because those who were with him before he was arrested said he didn't have a mark on him."

White's father also told Cooper that upon learning of Victor's death, he immediately drove from Alexandria to New Iberia to see his son, but was initially refused by the sheriff's office. And when he finally did get clearance, the body was covered from the neck down by a sheet, with sheriff's officials refusing to disclose any details on what happened. It took a post on the sheriff's Facebook page for White to learn how they were saying his son died, and for him, it didn't add it up. And he certainly is not buying the coroner's report that suicide caused his son's death.

From the start, this case was shrouded in too many questions, but now, with the findings from White's autopsy released, this situation has worsened for a sheriff's department with a known history of unfair treatment of black residents in Iberia Parish.

State police is still investigating.

And it should demand answers from Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal, starting with the discrepancy between his deputies' initial account of White's death and last week' autopsy.

In his piece for Vice, Cooper also raises a few important new questions worth asking:

Did Victor III actually have gun residue on his hands?

What kind of gun fired the shot and what kind of bullet was used?

Based upon what new information did this shooting suddenly become a confirmed suicide?

And how do the police reconcile this report with their initial account?

All of these are ringing in his head with all the old, unanswered questions, like who were the officers involved?

Is there a weapon or a bullet?

And, maybe most important, was this incident caught on videotape?

Check out Vice's full article here, and read our latest take on this story here.