Feds: No probe in Victor White III case

"The investigation revealed that Mr. White was in possession of a .25 caliber handgun earlier that evening. ...In addition, gunshot residue was found on both of Mr. White’s hands."

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office announced Tuesday afternoon that there is insufficient evidence to warrant a federal civil rights investigation into the March 2014 death of Victor White III, the New Iberia man who died from a single gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of a sheriff’s deputy’s cruiser.

According to a release announcing the new development:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI reviewed all of the material and evidence generated by the Louisiana State Police, including witness statements, crime scene evidence, dispatch recordings, and video footage taken from police vehicles and forensic reports. Additionally, the Department of Justice asked independent medical experts to review the autopsy performed by the state coroner and to conduct an independent analysis of Mr. White’s death. During the investigation, the U.S. Attorney and the investigative team also met with the White family and their representative to obtain additional information, evidence or witness information relating to the case.

In order to prove a violation of applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. After a careful and thorough review of the evidence, federal prosecutors and FBI agents have determined that the evidence here is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any officer fired a weapon at Mr. White.

During the late evening of March 2, 2014, a deputy responding to a 911 call regarding a fight at a local store, stopped Mr. White and his friend who were on their way back from the store. Mr. White was taken into custody after marijuana and cocaine were found in his possession. According to Mr. White’s friend, who was not arrested, the interaction with the officers was non-confrontational. Video from the patrol car camera is consistent with the witness’s account. Mr. White was handcuffed behind his back, placed in the back seat of the patrol car and taken to the patrol center. While Mr. White was in the back seat of the patrol car, which was parked in the patrol center parking lot, a gun fired, causing a fatal gunshot wound to Mr. White.

Ballistics testing confirmed that the gun used in the shooting was a small .25 caliber handgun that was found on the back seat of the patrol car, adjacent to and behind Mr. White after the shooting. A single spent .25 caliber shell casing was also recovered from the rear compartment of the patrol car. The investigation revealed that Mr. White was in possession of a .25 caliber handgun earlier that evening. Experts determined that the .25 caliber handgun was in close proximity to his body when it was discharged. In addition, gunshot residue was found on both of Mr. White’s hands.

Video footage from earlier that night shows Mr. White reaching around to his front pants pocket area while handcuffed behind his back. Both the state coroner and independent federal medical experts concluded that Mr. White fired the shot while handcuffed. The autopsy revealed a gunshot wound to the chest, with the bullet entering on the right side below the right nipple, and exiting on the left side of the chest near the armpit.

After careful examination of all of the evidence, the USAO, the Civil Rights Division and the FBI determined that the tragic incident did not constitute a prosecutable violation of any federal criminal civil rights statutes.