Louisiana Coroner Claims Handcuffed Black Man Killed Himself in Police Car

The report, released six months after Victor White III's death, contradicts the statements initially released by police. 

Posted: 08/26/2014 03:30 PM EDT

A coroner’s report obtained exclusively by NBC News claims that a 22-year-old Black man committed suicide while handcuffed behind his back in the back seat of a police car on March 3. Yet, according to an initial statement from the Louisiana State Police, Victor White III had shot himself in the back.

The report also revealed that the bullet struck White’s right chest and exited under his left armpit, leading to another contradiction: White’s family members have said that he was left-handed. In addition to his wound, abrasions were also reportedly discovered on his face that were not there when police first stopped him.

As for gunpowder residue, traces were found in the wound but "not the sort of stippling that a close-range shot can sometimes produce,” NBC News reported. White’s hands were never checked for gunpowder residue.

Dr. Carl Ditch declared White’s death a suicide and reportedly confirmed in a recent press release that it was possible for White to shoot himself in the chest based on his “body habits,” or rather his physique or build.

“You can’t make me understand,” Rev. Victor White II, 53, a Baptist minister and former substance abuse counselor, told NBC News. “You can’t make me understand how my son took his left hand, when he was handcuffed behind the back, and shot himself. I don’t believe a thing they’re saying at this point.”

On the evening of his death, March 3, White had been hanging out with friends in the town of New Iberia before he and a new friend, Isaiah Lewis, left to go purchase a small amount of marijuana. After purchasing $10 worth, the young men bought cigars from a nearby gas station. A fight that occurred between two men outside of the gas station prompted someone to call 911, but White and Lewis left once the men ran away.

The police stopped both White and Lewis on their way back from the station, patted them down and located “suspected marijuana” in his pants, according to the report. The police then ran White and Lewis’ names through a police database and called for backup. Another search yielded a small amount of cocaine. White had been handcuffed behind his back and put in the back seat of the cruiser by the time a second police car arrived.

Lewis, who was dismissed, walked back to his father’s house, but White was transported to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office where he “became uncooperative” “produced a handgun” and “fired one round, striking himself,” according to police.

Lewis did not know for certain whether White had a gun, but he says he never saw one.

"I try playing it out in my head,” Lewis told NBC News. "If we had different timing … I don’t know what went wrong exactly that night.”

Dash camera footage and the names of the officers present during White’s death have not been released by the State Police yet due to the pending investigation. Meanwhile, the White family told NBC News that they doubt the investigators will contradict the coroner’s ruling and have not decided whether to file a lawsuit.

“I don’t’ think anything is going to be different from what they already said,” said Rev. White. “It’s difficult to see that anything else would bring us back what we need. The only thing we want back is our son.”

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(Photo: Courtesy of White Family)

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