By Letitia Stein
(Reuters) - Federal prosecutors will not pursue criminal civil rights charges in the 2014 death of a Louisiana man shot in the back of a patrol car, the U.S. Justice Department said this week, ending its probe into what was earlier ruled a suicide.
Victor White III fired the fatal shot while handcuffed, both the state coroner and independent federal medical experts concluded, according to a news release issued on Tuesday.
"The tragic incident did not constitute a prosecutable violation of any federal criminal civil rights statutes," said the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana.
A family attorney said relatives were disappointed and planned to continue with a federal lawsuit they filed against sheriff's officials. She said the family disputed findings the 22-year-old White killed himself. The lawsuit charges that sheriff's officers' "wrongful acts" were responsible for White's death.
"We feel very confident that justice will be served in the end, regardless of what the Justice Department results turned out to be," Carol Powell Lexing said in a phone interview.
The case has stirred protests from community activists.
On March 2, 2014, White was stopped after a fight and taken into custody for drug possession in Iberia Parish, about 100 miles (160 km) west of New Orleans, according to prosecutors.
Federal investigators found he was carrying a .25-caliber handgun earlier that night. The weapon was found in the backseat of the patrol car, along with a single spent casing.
Gunshot residue also was found on both of White's hands, prosecutors said.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Peter Cooney)