NEW ORLEANS -- The family of a French Quarter beating victim is mourning the 29-year-old's death earlier this week. Now NOPD's homicide unit has taken over the case.
Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with Juan Capriel's family about their police investigation concerns.
"This is Juan Capriel, more of a gentle giant, I like to say," said Brian Cheramie, Capriel's brother-in-law.
Brain surgery and weeks in the Intensive Care Unit couldn't save Capriel's life or give his family another chance to speak with their gentle giant. The 29-year-old was found laying unconscious in the 600 block of Saint Louis in the French Quarter on Jan. 18. He died on Sunday.
"He received an infection within the hospital, 50-50 chance of survival. It got into his blood stream, went into this brain, his spinal cord. I would say he suffered for two months," said Cheramie.
The NOPD confirms Capriel was found by a passerby. They say he's an apparent victim of a brutal assault. At the time police said detectives were questioning a suspect seen arguing with Capriel.
"The death of the victim is a complete game changer. Now this is an active homicide investigation. Its going to get a lot more attention from NOPD and the DA's office," said Loyola Law School Professor Dane Ciolino.
Now the NOPD says someone is claiming the assault was self-defense. Ciolino believes this case could head to a grand jury.
"In order for defensive force to be justifiable, the force needs to be reasonable in light of the circumstances and necessary in an effort save the subject's life," said Ciolino.
As this Algiers family prepares for unexpected and heartbreaking funeral arrangements, they grapple daily with Capriel's death and a burning desire for justice.
"I would not want this person to be let free. It was a horrible act of cruelty," said Cheramie.
The NOPD's homicide division has taken over this case, which it says is still under investigation. Police won't identify the person who's claiming self-defense but did confirm he gave them a statement.
A Juan Capriel memorial fund is set up online to help pay for funeral expenses.