According to a coroner's report obtained by NBC News, Victor White, a 22-year-old black man, committed suicide in the back of a police car by shooting himself in the chest while his hands were cuffed behind his back. The report contradicts the official police account, which said White shot himself in the back.
White died March 3rd in New Iberia, Louisiana, after a night spent hanging out with friends. He was stopped by police along with an acquaintance, Isaiah Lewis, on the way back from buying cigars at a local gas station. Cops found a small amount of pot on White during a pat-down, then ran the two men's names through a database and called for backup. A second search yielded a small amount of cocaine, and White was arrested and placed into an Iberia Parrish police cruiser, where he allegedly produced a .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun and shot himself in the right side of the chest.
The story and the new coroner's report raise several questions about the incident. One friend said White joked about having a gun earlier that night, but no one is on record as having seen one. If he did have a gun, why didn't police find it during one of the two searches? How was he able to reach around and shoot himself in the chest with his hands cuffed behind his back? (The coroner's report said it was possible due to White's "body habitus.") Why did police initially claim he shot himself in the back? Why didn't the coroner find the gunpowder stippling common to close-range shots on White's wound? White had a laceration on his face at the time of his death that Lewis said wasn't there the last time two men saw each other, before White got into the cruiser. Where did it come from?
Louisiana State Police opened a still-pending investigation hours after White's death, NBC reports, but White's father, a Baptist minister, has doubts about what it will find. "You can't make me understand," Rev. Victor White II told NBC. "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."
Because the investigation is pending, many pertinent details—including dash cam footage and the names of the officers present during White's death—have not been released. The state police did release a preliminary incident report stating White had been shot with a .25 caliber handgun—not the .45 caliber gun Iberia police officers are issued—but that police hand't found it during their searches.
[Image via NBC News]