Sheriff asks State Police to investigate OPP inmate's death

Sheriff asks State Police to investigate OPP inmate's death
Willie Lee (Family photo)
Willie Lee (Family photo)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - State Police will meet with investigators at Orleans Parish Prison on Monday to discuss an inmate's death inside of the facility.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman (Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office) asked Colonel Mike Edmonson (Louisiana State Police) on Friday for an independent investigation.

On November 20, the Orleans Parish Coroner 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.

Initial reports said Lee died of a heart attack.

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:

"The report will be finalized and submitted to the District Attorney's Office for consideration with all other documents and evidence previously submitted."

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