9:57am PT by Kimberly Nordyke
Investigation Discovery Explores Controversial Death of Black Man While in Police Custody (Exclusive)
Investigation Discovery is exploring the controversial death of a black man who police say shot himself while in custody in the back of a patrol car despite being handcuffed behind his back.
Sugar Town will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Victor White III, who was 22, on March 2, 2014, an incident that brought simmering racial tensions to a boil in a Louisiana town.
New Iberia, a town whose economy relies on sugarcane production, is bisected by railroad tracks — residents to the north of the tracks are predominantly white, while largely black neighborhoods lie to the south. The tracks created a strong history of racial divide predating the American Civil War in New Iberia, and many residents would argue that a Jim Crow south is still very much alive.
When White died, officers said he shot himself in the chest despite being handcuffed behind his back in the rear seat of the patrol car.
Sugar Town will focus on the central mystery of what might have happened to White and chronicles the family's search for justice for their son's suspicious death while in police custody.
The investigation also reveals "a larger story of power, corruption and racial injustice nestled within a divided southern town, with Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal — a man shrouded in controversy — at the center," according to the network.
"Victor White III was a father, a son, a brother — and sadly, I fear, a victim of injustices rooted in New Iberia," said Henry Schleiff, group president for Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. "Tragedies like these unfortunately catapult people into becoming activists, and we are humbled to share the White family's crusade for answers in Sugar Town. We are reminded that corruption and racism exist in our society, today, and we hope that ID's airing of this documentary will help spark informed dialogue about larger social injustices to ensure that White's death was not in vain."
The doc features several of White's family members, including his father, Reverend Victor White; mother, Vanessa; and two of his eight siblings, sister Lakeisha and brother L.C. The documentary also features interviews with key members of the New Iberian community, including local radio host Tony Brown, The Daily Iberian journalist Dwayne Fatheree and local activist Donald Broussard.
Resident Anthony Daye also recounts his personal experience of brutality at the hands of New Iberia's law enforcement, and the documentary also features commentary from civil rights attorney Clayton Burgess as well as the White family's attorney, Carol Powell Lexing.
The two-hour documentary premiere at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 6.
Sugar Town is produced for Investigation Discovery by Stephen David Entertainment, with Stephen David and Tim W. Kelly as executive producers, Shan Nicholson as director and Jonathan Soule as co-executive producer. For Investigation Discovery, Pamela Deutsch is executive producer and Sara Kozak is senior vp production.