The coroner on Thursday classified the death of an Orleans Parish Prison inmate as a homicide.
Willie Lee died in March following a jailhouse fight. At the time, investigators said the 40-year-old showed no signs of injury after deputies broke up the fight. Minutes later, Lee complained that he couldn't breathe. He died a few hours later.
In June, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging deputies used pepper spray on Lee after he complained of chest pains and that they also beat and kicked him.
A spokesman for OPP said video evidence disputes the family's claims.
In a statement, Orleans Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse said he found Lee's injuries were the result of a fight between inmates and found no evidence that his injuries were caused by deputies. He went on to say that his decision does not confer guilt or innocence but offers the medical opinion that Lee's death was caused by the intentional actions of others, which is the medical definition of homicide.
Orleans Parish Prison released the following statement: