July 22nd, 2008
02:05 PM ET

Accused, arrested, tasered, killed…

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/22/art.taservictim.jpg caption="Baron ‘Scooter” Pikes"]

David Fitzpatrick
Producer, CNN Special Investigations Unit

When I felt the searing 98 degree heat and the oppressive 100 percent humidity here, it wasn’t as jarring as it might have been. In fact, it seemed familiar for a very good reason.

Just a year ago I was in the same sort of weather in a town only 40 miles from here: Jena, Louisiana, ground zero for the nation’s largest civil rights demonstrations in a generation.

Then, I was helping to produce stories about what led to the demonstrations - the jailing of a teenager named Mychal Bell.

You might recall, Bell was in a school yard fight in Jena that stemmed from three nooses, hung from a tree in front of the local school. Bell was jailed on a charge of attempted murder in the wake of that fight and five of his classmates were also charged, but not imprisoned.

A year later, I was in Winnfield where one of Mychal Bell’s first cousins, Baron ‘Scooter” Pikes, was the central figure in another case where accusations of racial injustice have been flying.

Last January, the 21-year-old Pikes was struck by a taser gun nine times in less than an hour, after he was arrested on an outstanding warrant alleging possession of crack cocaine.

He was dead on arrival at a local hospital after being hit six times while handcuffed and lying on his stomach, once in the back of a Winnfield police car and twice more on the concrete outside the police department’s headquarters.

It took the local coroner nearly six months to classify the death as a homicide and, as of this writing, no formal charges have been filed by the Winn Parish District Attorney.

There’s an ongoing investigation by the Louisiana State Police and both attorneys for officer involved, Scott Nugent, and the local coroner say they expect a grand jury will be convened sometime in future.

Winnfield is a town with a colorful and notorious past. On the big water tower that rises over the town are colored drawings of two of the area’s most famous, or infamous sons: former governors Earl and Huey Long. Both were larger than life and Huey Long, of course, was the subject of Robert Penn Warren’s book, “All The King’s Men,” which has been turned into two films. There’s a plaque smack in the middle of Winnfield’s downtown that helps you find the law offices both men inhabited when they were here.

This is also a town where everyone pretty much knows everyone else. While taping interviews and shooting incidental footage for our story, we were stopped several times by people who knew one or another figure in this case.

One woman, who didn’t want to be interviewed on camera, had a decal painted on the rear window of her car in honor of Baron Pikes. An elected city official also told us off-camera that he was worried that the demonstrations that took place in Jena could well be duplicated in Winnfield.

The story of what happened to Baron Pikes has been news off and on here since the beginning of the year. But until now, there hasn’t been a great deal of notice in the national press or on television.

That’s changing of course. A reporter for The Chicago Tribune was in town the day before we arrived. And there are a lot of people here who say that they welcome the attention, even if it might augur more turbulence ahead.

soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. yon azn

    sadly, racism still exist, even from cops, many times it goes unnoticed and the victim can not do anything about it, I couldn't believe it when it happened to me, traumatizing, and I'm one of the most optimistic, positive person in the world. Being black/asian/immigrant is tough, poor black guy, that was unfair and unjustice, that cop has issue and need to spend at least 5 years in prison for killing another person. The facts are already presented, do not defend the coward cop

    July 23, 2008 at 7:15 am |
  2. ZIUS

    this is wrong ...just wrong and sad ...he was handcuffed ..the police should read him his rights not teaser him to death ....AA increase crime rates is not because of blacks are more violent ...its because of the poverty in the aa comunity that is passed on ....i am white id like to say if this was racially motivated ....then any one defending their actions are just disgusting ...if it was abuse of power and your defending their action that too is disgustingif the law doesn't work then we are doomed as a nation....i hope a full investigation is done

    July 23, 2008 at 6:11 am |
  3. raphael

    please read the entire article before you make coments.

    1. pikes was not high on crack or any other substance, refrence the medcial examiners report.
    2. he was handcuffed and on his stomach, he was tased for being slow to get up, he wieghed 247 pounds try getting up with your hands behind your back.
    3. 9 shot from a taser is overkill period.

    police should be held to the same if not higher stander.

    both officers should be charged with murder. Nugent and his partner

    July 23, 2008 at 4:54 am |
  4. Lori

    Tazers are straight from Hell. To the officer that said he'd rather taze someone than be spit on or kicked by them – you are terribly weak and unfit for the job. News flash – being a cop is dangerous – you will more than likely be hurt in the line of duty – part of the job! By the way, **NO DRUGS** were in Pikes' system. They also determined that Pikes was probably DEAD before tazers 8 & 9. The new law of our land is lawlessness from top to bottom. All you people who think it is okay for cops to kill people in handcuffs are godless cowards.

    July 23, 2008 at 4:32 am |
  5. Tom Johnson

    but mike from nyc there is one thing that whites do have a higher rate at and thats sexual based crimes and serial killers. go race wars. ideological thinking of collectiveness to further isolation and your seperatist agenda.

    July 23, 2008 at 3:39 am |
  6. yussef illinois

    This is what happens when a human get the power to use this kind of forse. The police officer relies only on his jugment on deciding weather to use his equipment. This is to me a perfect example of someone on a power trip.

    July 23, 2008 at 1:42 am |
  7. R Tillman

    God is still on the strone he sit high and look low. These officer will one day answer to him. This young man be it was wrong with what he had done but no one be it officer of the law or not has the right to take another one life. I am afraid of what this world is comeing to when a human life taken mean nothing any more. Just know one day trouble wi;; come your way.

    July 23, 2008 at 1:34 am |
  8. yussef

    Police now a days have too much power given to them and time and time again they had showen that they are human and like averyone else they make bad jugment. This could just be the case of a Police officer on a power trip

    July 23, 2008 at 1:29 am |
  9. Black

    These stories are to common. Everyone gets outraged, talks alot, sheads tears and still nothing changes. Time to stop crying and start fighting back with a heavy hand.

    July 23, 2008 at 1:06 am |
  10. Vigilant

    Taser is a Scottsdale, AZ company - one of the Profiteers in the mass industrial criminal justice system. Investigate Arizona and those who are profiting from all this growth - a field destroying lives, families and chlldren and our society's future - so these owners can become the next multimillionaires sucking the life out of our country.

    July 23, 2008 at 1:02 am |
  11. Joyce

    Response to Violet Miller

    Before you go off on a rampage trying getting 'all' of the facts. The coroner stated that there were no drugs of any sort in the victim's system. He was a healthy young man who was murdered.

    Where does it say he was a drug dealer or a drug user? The reporting stated he was wanted on a warrant for possession of cocaine. No trial, no conviction, innocent until proven guilty-by a court of law or twelve peers; not some rouge cop.

    Drug dealer, gangbanger, not so. The victim was a sawmill worker, a tax paying citizen just like you.

    Get the facts first before you speak, it can save you a lot of embarrassment and might even keep your studpidity from showing or being heard. Heaven forbid you ever did any wrong and did not receive the harshest punishment possible. Don't cast stones when you live in a glass house. Don't judge harshly lest you be judged as harshly in return.

    Stockbridge, Ga.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:53 am |
  12. Josh Williams

    It is so sad to see how racist America really is. Right here, in the list of comments, white americans have indicated that this has only led to the removal of a drug dealer from the streets. All of these white Americans came to that conclusion based on the fact that the victim was black. Nowhere in the CNN story is it indicated that he was a drug dealer, but that he was wanted for cocaine possession. Possession does not make a dealer; but since he was black he must have been a dealer. The sad thing is that what I've written up here will not point towards racism to white Americans. Possession of illicit drugs is most common with white Americans in this nation. I guess I'll have to consider us all drug dealers from now on (since I'm white).

    July 23, 2008 at 12:27 am |
  13. Kae

    What has not been mentioned in any of the coverage of this incident, despite the sensationalism of it being turned into a race issue, is that the Police Chief of Winnfield Louisiana, Johnny Ray Carpenter, is black. With a sizable portion of the rest of the force also being black.

    The "victim" of this story is a convicted and known habitual drug user. The coverages so far for these stories, just like the Jena 6 coverage(of which between the six of the defendants they had over twenty prior convictions), the reporters only report a slim portion of the truth that will garner the most attention when the rest of the environment surrounding the situation is ignored.

    Winn Parish(Louisiana has Parishes instead of Counties) as a whole is suffering from a string of corrupt officials, from the blurbs of stories covered so far, to the brand new Sheriff who is under investigation of his abuses of office when he was Tax Assessor(using his office to pressure voters, punish supporters of his competition, and rewarding his supporters) .

    The largest problem with the coverage of these "racially charged" stories is that the racial tension is being applied by the media and not the environment or the lawyers use race instead of evidence and precedence to build their cases.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:26 am |
  14. RJ, NC

    I have always been a proponent of banning white officers from patroling Black neighborhoods. This will drastically decrease tension.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:16 am |
  15. Jesse- Denver, CO

    I hear a lot of blogs that emphasize.

    “So what he’s a drug dealer or gang banger.”

    Our country is founded by laws and regulations. I never seen a young man get the death sentence for drug dealing nor gang activity. However I have seen prison time given to individuals that murder others.

    This is murder, I can not defend the officer there are no facts to his story. The gang banger did not appose life threat danger to the officer. This is not a black vs. White story. I expect to see this officer get the prison time he deserves.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:10 am |
  16. Mike in NYC

    From the article:

    "Bell was in a school yard fight in Jena that stemmed from three nooses..."

    Wrong. According to Craig Franklin, a Jena journalist and resident:

    "Nowhere in any of the evidence, including statements by witnesses and defendants, is there any reference to the noose incident that occurred three months prior. This was confirmed by the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, Donald Washington, on numerous occasions."

    See Franklin's article for a myth-by-myth dissection of the "official" version of the Jena case, which was a fraud from start to finish.

    July 23, 2008 at 12:02 am |
  17. brewme

    Would my children be caught up in a situation like this? Nooooo! This guy was a criminal who resisted arrest.. He was tasered to avoid deadly force. The coke in his system probably caused his cardiac arrest. Don't you dare blame the Police for this. These criminals are trained from birth to fight or run from the Police. What do you expect?

    July 22, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  18. JuleS

    "The family wants justice."

    Society wants justice for pigs like the late "victim" who was dealing cocaine and blithely committing God knows what other crimes against humanity.

    I agree with Average American - it's not the police hammering the black community, it's the parents of these kids who turn their backs, who do nothing to try to dissuade their children from following the same path the parents did. So Boom-Boom or Scavenger or Fat Boy or whatever his street name, was tasered to death; like AA said, good - one less drug dealer on the street.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  19. Teresa, OH

    I have long thought that we should have black cops for black thugs.
    White cops for white thugs. This would end the racist angle. Silly, yes?

    My condolences to the Pike family.

    @Mike in NYC: I love your comments... Your common sense, sense of REALITY, and what's real and true is so refreshing. You need to have your own blog : )

    I dont know why anyone would want to be a cop or in the military. Instead of making the world a better, safer place, you discover how sick everyONE is.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  20. Leate

    I live in Bossier City, Louisiana which is not too far from Winn Parish, and this was my first time hearing of this incident. Local news stations and newspapers haven't posted a story on this tragedy. Regardless of Mr. Pikes being in trouble for his drug convictions, that has nothing to do with the situation. What the problem is happens to be an officer that abused his power and is hiding behind the badge. Here in Louisiana we have alot of officers who think they are above the law–many who abuse their power and plenty who cheat the system. It's 2008 and Louisiana is still the most corrupt state in the nation. Its sad that racism still exits here and we are still using the GOOD OLE BOY system. I offer my sympathy for the family of Mr. Pikes and may God rest his soul.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:43 pm |
  21. Don

    The state does not have the moral terpitude to decide life or death. Unfortunately our laws differ with the current morality that exists in law enforcement at any level.
    The war on drugs, and terror have stripped the last vestiges of any type of civil liberties for American citizens. This death, and other abuses and deaths at the hands of the police and the justice system is an example of that loss of liberty. But, what frightens me the most about the loss of civil rights is the acceptance from the very people suffering from the loss. How can anyone applaud the murder of a human? The brainwashing is widespread.
    I fear that until more people experience this abuse first hand, there will be no outrage generated against the loss of human and civil rights.
    Cops are not heroes, no more than any other person that performs their job. Remember being a police officer is a choice; a choice often made because of the power that comes with the badge.
    Really people, this is not about race, it is about social class. Money is what separates us, not the color of your skin. I doubt that a twenty something from a wealthy family would have suffered this fate, no matter the shade of skin pigmentation.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  22. Karen

    If this young man skin was White. That Police Officer would be in jail but the young man is not and that is why this Police Officer did this and it is Louisiana.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  23. Mark

    Taser the COP to death. It's time that the cops in the USA find out how it feels to get killed by a taser. Of course it just a legalize killing, less chance of a conviction not being a guy used. The Taser Company should be out of business or sue out of business.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  24. Dawn

    I am a war veteran and I was not even allowed to treat the citizens of the country I was in so poorly. By the way you don't have to do much for the police to attack you if you are black. I was pulled over called names and had a gun held to my head for mistaken identity ( I am a woman and was dressed in a suit with car seats in the back), they were looking for three black males in the same color car I had). I have a masters degree, I do not have a record and like I said I am a veteran. The police treat blacks the way that they do because they are not held accountable. But I guess I had that coming, thank you officer for reminding me of what it means to be black in this country. I was treated better in Germany, Turkey and Bosnia.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  25. Richard

    I think at times it is a no win situation for the cops. I have seen where they get sued for using the taser and then when they use a gun, they get sued for not using the taser.

    Did the cop go overboard, i would say yes, but since none of us was there to see exactly what went on and we are not a judge/jury, let the criminal system do its job without us giving a verdict before hand.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  26. Mike in NYC

    Jakie wrote:

    "Now remember we have crack heads, gangbangers, robbers, killers ect whats the difference."

    Blacks have significantly higher rates of violent crime than whites in almost every major category. Come on - what's more likely to be a safe place to live, the average majority-white neighborhood or the average majority-black neighborhood? Which neighborhood would most people, regardless of race, choose to live in? Get real.

    Here in NYC, the black areas always have the highest crime rates, regardless of the overall crime stats.

    Why is it that white-on-black crimes get endless exposure, not to mention endless hand-wringing, in the media, while the MUCH more common black-on-white crimes tend to end up in the memory hole?

    July 22, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  27. dwayne

    How long will it be before the black man is considered a terrorist. With all the reaccurring brutality, who is going to do something? all the opportunties for others not blacks. Family, education, finance and health. These 5 issues we must solve.

    July 22, 2008 at 11:02 pm |
  28. John Paul

    how long is this country going to sit back and let these men in uniform be the most dangerous gang in everystate ?
    We have a serious problem in Knoxville, Tennessee with our dangerous cops also.

    July 22, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  29. Aaron

    Officers of law, or officers of crime?
    Protecting people, or killing people?

    Another classic case of authorities abusing their power.

    I think a reform should be made in that particular police division.


    July 22, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  30. Kelly FL

    This is total ignorance on behalf of the DA. You tase a hancuffed man 9 times you mean to kill. Why did it take the coroner so long to find this man was murdered. I think is was pretty clear from the get go, but ANOTHER dirty cop will get away with MURDER.

    July 22, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  31. Average American

    One less drug dealer on the streets...I wonder how many lives this scum bag has ruined by peddling his drugs on the street, how many children have OD on his drugs. It’s not the cops that are harming the African American community it’s the parasites of the world like “Scooter”. Good Riddance.

    July 22, 2008 at 10:53 pm |
  32. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    What ever happened to the term "Peace Officer?"...............I think that term has fallen by the wayside........shameful.........and someone should be held accountable...............

    July 22, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  33. Timothy Nelson - Hopkins, Minnesota

    Why don't they do the same to the Officer?

    Then maybe they would think before they act.

    July 22, 2008 at 10:45 pm |
  34. Paul

    Are you people out of you mind? Do you understand that someone on drugs can resist about anything..poor drug dealer dead...How many people did he kill?

    My brother was a cop in projects of Cleveland...Had to put a guy down about the same size on drugs. Took ten cops, no taser.. hurt 5 of the cops bad...

    What the hell..........?

    July 22, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  35. Londayle

    they are officers of the law and not officers of the people like they should be

    July 22, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  36. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    This is very wrong.

    You don't taser someone who can't resist or defend themselves.

    This is clearly abuse of power.

    July 22, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  37. R. Ross

    The PD in my home city are just as bad. I have been intimidated by cops that have someone in custody that they have obviously beaten and have injuries inconsistent with the PD’s story. (I work for EMS.) They don’t want you to transport the patient or say what you think. “You got a problem with this?”
    It’s no wonder that the public has little respect for PD. My opinion used to be one of admiration but now is now one of little regard for most of them. I no longer trust the police until they have proven they deserve it. A bunch of school yard bullies that never grew up and now carry guns.

    July 22, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  38. Jakie

    This saddens me to no end when its so easy to judge him because he is black. The police are paid to protect us not kill black men. I am almost ashamed to say that I am white because everyday it seems I am embarressed by the actions of so many white people. Ignorance is so high among white to black people. Why is it that if a little white kid goes missing its spread all over the tv but if a black kid is missing you MIGHT see it on tv? they are no different then us. Now remember we have crack heads, gangbangers, robbers, killers ect whats the difference. NOTHING but there color we all should be ashamed of our actions.

    July 22, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  39. Annie Kate

    Its a shame what happened to that young man, but before we call it the fault of the police or anyone else the facts need to be gathered and looked at – lets not add to a tragedy of one killing by creating another one by jumping to conclusions without the facts to back it up.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 22, 2008 at 9:19 pm |
  40. Timothy Nelson - Hopkins, Minnesota

    Police statement:

    He was an out-of-control African-American who was acting out. We were justified.

    And, police wonder why citizens resist ?

    July 22, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  41. Ann

    does this case have racial overtones? Probably. Was this young man a drug dealer? Possibly.
    But, this story is about much more than that. It's about our law enforcement using excessive force to subdue someone. Yes, this man was probably out of control and a threat to the officers. But, my question is..was it necessary to taser him nine times within one hour?
    How much electrical current can the human body take before it is damaged? An officer of the law is (should be) trained to apprehend a suspect with minimal harm to all involved. It seems this officer overstepped his boundries. Was this a misuse of power? Sadly, it seems so. Hopefully, all the facts will be brought to light and justice will prevail. After all, each of us deserve to be treated fairly and humanely.

    July 22, 2008 at 8:43 pm |
  42. Dawn T. Pittsburgh, PA

    I'm appalled at the insensitive aforementioned comments. There is no excuse for criminal behavior; however, all people of color (especially African-Americans and Hispanics) know that you can be minding your own business and get pulled over or accosted by the police. I guess I should not expect other ethnicities to understand this truth but that is no excuse for applauding the police and celebrating the death of this young man especially when we don't know all of the details.

    We reap what we sow. At points in our lives ALL of us need grace, mercy, understanding, and forgiveness from others. We need to keep that in mind before we denounce the value of someone's life. One day someone may make the same pronouncement about your worth.

    July 22, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  43. mari

    This was a volition of human right in it purest form. Who care, if this guy was black, white or green. The police officer’s involved should not get away with this kind of behavior. We have a motto in this country, "EVERY ONE is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law". Since when did the police become Judge, jury and executioner? The fact is that there should be protest about this. But not because he was black, but because he was a human being.

    July 22, 2008 at 7:55 pm |
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