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Will Godfrey Will Godfrey

Arrested Black Man “Shot Himself in the Chest With His Hands Cuffed Behind His Back”

The police and coroner versions of the alleged suicide of Victor White, who was arrested for drug possession, spark outrage.

14 Substance

Victor White was 22 years old. Photo via

How did Victor White really die? Photo via

A 22-year-old African American man arrested in March committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest while his hands were cuffed behind his back, a Louisiana coroner has ruled. The verdict follows the recent police killing of Michael Brown and has sparked widespread outrage.

Victor White III and a friend were stopped by cops in New Iberia, Louisiana on March 3 after buying cigars. The police performed a “consented pat-down” and found White to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana, they report. A second search produced a small quantity of cocaine and White was arrested and placed in a police car with his hands cuffed behind his back.

White had been searched twice. No gun had been discovered. Despite this, the police stated that while in the back of the car, White produced a .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun and shot himself in the back.

The newly released coroner’s report, obtained by NBC, contradicts this extraordinary story—but still rules White’s death a suicide, stating that he instead shot himself in the chest. The report adds that the contortion necessary to do this was possible “due to his body habitus.”

With a police investigation still pending, plenty of pertinent details and evidence have yet to be released. But the details already known—the lack of evidence of any gun before the alleged suicide; the lack of any “stippling” on the body to indicate a close-range shooting; an unexplained facial injury on White’s body; the lack of testing for gunpowder residue on White’s hands—are explosive. The incident, like many before it, fuels the view that the drug war has poisoned relationships between the police and the communities they serve—above all, communities of color.

White’s father is a Baptist minister and former drug counselor. “You can’t make me understand,” said Rev. Victor White II, 53. “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.”