Hundreds of protestors gathered at Bouligny Plaza in New Iberia, Louisiana, to call for an end to police brutality and to demand justice for 22-year-old Victor White, III who was fatally shot while handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser while in their custody.
Rev. Victor White, Sr. and his family have been demanding answers from the Iberia Parish Sherriff’s Department since his son’s tragic death, March 3, 2014, which was ruled a suicide. Rev. White has mentioned many times that his son is not “Houdini”, explaining that it was impossible for his son to have killed himself with his hands cuffed to the back and a gunshot wound that entered through the front. “Nineteen months later and I still have no answers as to why my son was killed,” said Rev. White, addressing how it hasn’t gotten any easier to talk about his son.
Deborah Muhammad, along with men and women from the Nation of Islam, attended the Oct. 17 rally. Ms. Muhammad and Daryl Muhammad were the first to interview Rev. White on their bi-weekly television show, the Community Defender in Lafayette, La., she said.
“It was the first time we talked about what has been labeled the “Houdini” murder. We invited Rev. White and his family to be guests of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in Houston while on his regional Justice Or Else tour,” added Ms. Muhammad.
She commended Rev. White and his wife for being so vigilant, persistent, and present in making sure there is justice for their son and that he is not forgotten. Support Ms. Muhammad says she will continue to give until he gets justice.
“I was asked to come down when the story first broke,” said Rev. Raymond Brown, national president of National Action Now, a civil rights organization based in New Orleans. “I was the first civil rights activist to call for an independent investigation into Victor White’s death. We began holding press conferences until we received national coverage, but the case never got the attention like Michael Brown or Eric Garner,” he added.
Rev. Brown, standing before the body of protesters also demanded that the head of the Louisiana State Police, Mike Edmonson, release the names of the police officers who arrested Victor White, III that night. “Every police officer or officers who are accused of murdering a Black man in America names are released to the public except here in Louisiana,” he stated. “So you go tell Mike Edmonson to release the names and you tell him Rev. Brown said it!”
Rev. White has been very vocal about the many inconsistencies in his son’s case, including the location of where the bullet entered his body, the displaced clothes he wore the night of his death, what he allegedly said before he supposedly killed himself, whether his hands were checked for gun powder and if there’s dash cam footage.
“They are asking for my family to believe that my son was in the back of a patrol car, hands cuffed behind his back, but somehow took his hands and come around the front, shot himself, and then put himself back,” he said frankly.
“Growing up in the church,” said Rev. White, “he would’ve never committed suicide.” His son had “too much going for himself to do that,” he added. Young Victor had a job, he had just enrolled in school for welding, had a six month old baby, had just received his income tax check and was about to purchase a car and lease a new apartment.
Some of the supporters present at the march were families of slain loved ones, community activists, and members of the clergy. Different races of people with like minds held posters; all uniting to demand an end to police brutality and answers in the Victor White III case.
Speakers included talk show host Tony Brown, President of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP Marja Broussard, Bro. Takuna El Shabazz Council of Elders, Bro. Walter Umrani of the New Orleans Peace Keepers, and many of Victor’s family members. A particularly touching moment at the rally occurred when Victor White, III told his story through the voice of his mother, Vanessa White.
Rev. White is still petitioning for the Iberia Parish Coroner, Carl Ditch to change the manner and cause of his son’s death from suicide to homicide. A letter to the U.S. attorney and the Iberia Sherriff’s Department was also crafted and circulated with a summary of demands, which in part included: Immediate naming of officers involved, removal of Sherriff Louis Ackal for continued negligence of duties including deaths of citizens in Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office (IPSO) custody, mandatory body cameras, quarterly review of policies, independent investigation of lethal discharge of weapons, mandatory revised training to focus on de-escalation, and diversity training to humanize all persons served in community.
The family said they would continue to fight until there is justice for Victor White, III.