Federal authorities confirmed Tuesday that they have launched an investigation into the alleged suicide of Victor White III, the 22-year-old Black man who died from a single gunshot wound in March while handcuffed in the back of a police car.
The story of White’s death, as told by Iberia Parish, Louisiana, police officers and a coroner, is plagued with inconsistencies and details that many find hard to believe.
Those inconsistencies encouraged federal authorities to take their own look at what happened.
“This tragic incident deserves a full review of the evidence; our objective is to discover the truth,” said Stephanie Finley, the U.S. Attorney for Western Louisiana. “FBI agents, along with attorneys from my office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, will carefully review the results of the current investigation by the Louisiana State Police, will determine what addition investigation, if any, is necessary to determine who fired the fatal shot, and whether the evidence demonstrates a willful civil rights violation.”
Police claim that White committed suicide in the back of the squad car by shooting himself in the back while his hands were cuffed.
The alleged suicide would have come after two consented pat-downs by police, during which the officers discovered “suspected marijuana” in White’s pants, the police report said.
The pat-down reportedly did not produce a gun.
The details of the alleged suicide grew even murkier after the coroner’s report completely conflicted with the police’s version of events.
According to the Iberia Parish coroner’s report, which NBC News obtained last month, White was actually shot in the front.
“The bullet entered his right chest and exited under his left armpit,” NBC News reported. “White was left-handed, according to family members. According to the report, the forensic pathologist found gunshot residue in the wound, but not the sort of stippling that a close-range shot can sometimes produce.”
The report also noted that there were abrasions on White’s face.
However, the coroner still declared that White shot himself and committed suicide while handcuffed in the back of the police vehicle.
White’s family has called on the help of civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represents the families of slain teenagers Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, in order to get justice for their loved one.
The White family, along with Crump, called for an “independent investigation” by the Justice Department during a press conference Monday.
Carol Powell-Lexing, a local civil rights attorney, will also be representing the White family.
Powell-Lexing referred to the authorities’ version of events as a “Houdini” scenario, and she is pleased with the Justice Department’s swift response to the family’s call for justice.
“We feel that it’s necessary because all the discrepancies from the beginning of the case have mounted into an avalanche of discrepancies,” Powell-Lexing told NBC News.
A spokesman for the Louisiana State Police said the police’s inquiry is nearly complete.
“We’re strictly interested in finding the facts,” said Capt. Doug Cain.
The spokesman added that investigators will be ready to present their findings sometime this week.