July 28th, 2008
12:47 PM ET

Death by taser: Should cop be charged?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/CRIME/07/28/taser.death/art.pikes.fam.jpg caption="Baron Pikes, 21, was tasered nine times by a police officer in January in Winnfield, Louisiana. "]
David W. Fitzpatrick
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Breaking news today on a story we brought you last week. You might recall the case of 21-year-old Baron “Scooter” Pikes in Winnfield, Louisiana. He died in police custody in January after being shot nine times with a taser gun when he was arrested on a warrant alleging possession of crack cocaine.

The officer who fired all nine shots, says Winn Parish Cororner Dr. Randolph Williams, is Scott Nugent, son of a former Winnfield Chief of Police. Nugent was ultimately fired by the city council and is appealing his dismissal.

Today, Winn Parish District Attorney Chris Nevils says he will convene a grand jury next month to look into possible charges against Nugent. The coroner has already declared Pikes’ death a homicide. And Nevils has received the results Louisiana State Police investigation of the case.

“Now is the time to take this case to a grand jury for a determination about whether charges should be brought,” Nevils says in a statement.

When Pikes was arrested, he was handcuffed and placed on the ground, face down. The coroner said he was stunned six times while on the pavement. Later, the cororner says, Pikes was stunned with a direct shot to his chest, called a “drive stun,” while in the back of a Winnfield police cruiser and two more times on the ground adjacent to the police station. He was dead on arrival at a local hospital.

An attorney for former officer Nugent, Phillip Terrell, has claimed that Pikes was resisting arrest. He said Nugent followed proper procedure, and had two only choices other than letting Pikes go: “Beat him or tase him; he did the right thing.”

The coroner, however, told us that there was no evidence that Pikes was resisting arrest. In fact, he said, Pikes had stopped twitching after the 7th tase - the "drive stun." We couldn't reach Terrell for comment today.

An attorney for the family, Carol Powell-Lexing, who had called Pikes' death a racial injustice, tells us the grand jury appointment is a “welcome development.” Nugent is white; Pikes was black.

In a twist, Pikes is a cousin of Mychal Bell, one of the defendants in a racially charged assault that sparked large civil rights demonstrations a year ago in nearby Jena, Louisiana.

“I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter, “ Nevils says in his statement. “But my obligation and that of the grand jury is to objectively sort through the facts and make a decision that is in the best interests of justice. That is what we intend to do.”

Filed under: Crime & Punishment
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. megan smith

    Hell yes the cop should be charged! Those tasers should not be used anymore they are too dangerous a toy for the police to play with. It is outrageous! I can't believe that there isn't a law that restricts the number of times a cop can use it on a person. I say outlaw the tasers!

    July 29, 2008 at 5:53 am |
  2. Thomas

    This is obviously a heated topic needing a diplomatic compromising solution, and America always wants the Silver Bullet answer that cures all but its never so simple. Having worked in Law Enforcement for three years now, I've been to my share of Taser incidents, and have seen the usefulness of the device. Taser training is very thorough and during training it is emphasized that the TASER is LESS LETHAL weapon with the intended use of restraining and incapacitating the suspect.

    In this case it is too easy to lay blame to the White cop who tasered the Black man, however, if you read earlier, the Police Officer in question was involved in 10 of the city's 14 taser incidents... ALL WITHOUT QUESTION....leading me to believe that the Officer was well trained and exercised discretion in the use of the TASER. This also leads me to believe that there is much more to the story than is reported. Like, what was the suspect doing? What was he arrested for? What was his criminal record? Did he have a record of fighting after apprehension? These are very important facts. CNN reported that the Officers on scene heard the man say he'd been using controlled substances, including Crack Cocaine.

    A man under the influence of controlled substances can be VERY dangerous, EVEN after being handcuffed and restrained. CNN also reported the man was being arrested for drug related charges....leading again to the assumption that the man could be very dangerous. Drug dealers tend to be armed with some sort of weapon in my experience. Many people are quick to jump in the police for not knowing all the answers, but in the field you must put all of your past experience and what you "know" of the situation together and make and educated judgement. If you are wrong then that is the risk you run, however, Police Officers are faced every day with very dangerous and very fast decisions that involve life and death for more than just themselves.

    There should be an investigation into this incident, HOWEVER, as of right now I do not believe ANY actions should be taken against the officer involved other than PAID SUSPENSION at the most, until an investigation can be conducted to determine ALL of the facts.

    America shouldn't be so quick to jump on the police. Whether people like it or not, the Police are as much of heroes as firefighters or American soldiers. Without law enforcement, there are NO LAWS.

    I'm not saying a mistake wasn't made, I'm just saying Keep that in mind.

    July 29, 2008 at 4:33 am |
  3. Daniel

    Why is it always assumed it is racial when the victim is not white? If the former officer is guilty could it be just that guilty of murder but not racial motivated? Too many people cling to what happend in the United States 60yrs ago. Many of which wasn't even alive during that era. Granted there are racially motivated crimes still, why is that always the 1st assumption. Geeze, this country will never turn around if the minorities won't let go of the past. A lotta white people out there try to put their fists down and yet we always give them a reason to want to put it back up. Even when it isn't their fault. Would this have been less of a tragic event if it was a black cop? no Has a black cop ever beat on a black man? yes Has a white cop even killed a white man? yes Has a black cop ever killed a white man? yes If this cop is guilty then he could just be a murderer. Who knows, maybe if it was white man doing the same as this black man he would have done the same. We don't know the answer to that. Let the cops investigate and the courts decide.
    P.S. I AM a minority.

    July 29, 2008 at 3:01 am |
  4. Lamont Austin

    I think its obvious, the word officer come from the word overseer, my only overseer is god and he's is the only one that should take my life into there hands not some obviously racist cop, Thats another problem i've run into, Some of you racist dont know your racist thats a problem in itself.
    Racist to me are not American.

    Lamont Austin Tucson Az

    July 29, 2008 at 12:58 am |
  5. David

    Yes, they train them better then that, and they take the Oath of Honor. If your temper gets in the way you should pay.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:01 am |
  6. xiang ying

    The officer obviously used poor judgment possibly with the seventh shot. A situation such as this lends itself to racial descrimination. The facts will reveal the story.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  7. Debra S, Thibodaux, La

    Today cops believe they are above the law, they commit the same crimes they are suppose to uphold. Speeding, drugs, murder, corruption.

    July 29, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  8. ALEX

    It’s not the policeman’s job to be judge, jury and executor.

    July 28, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  9. D

    To Gerald,

    You are correct when you repeatedly state that one should not run from the police without expecting to face consequences. Additionally, one will face consequences if he parks near a fire hydrant, cheats on his taxes, or forgets his anniversary. In most of these cases, slow death by electrocution will not be the consequence.

    July 28, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  10. D

    To Kelly:

    "The story that was at the begining of this Blog did not give sufficent details to know what happened and WHY the Officer did what he did."

    July 28, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  11. Jeff

    If you run from the cops and resist arrest you should be prepared for the consequences…as far as I am concerned there in one less criminal on the streets…black, white it doesn’t matter to me. Good Riddance!

    July 28, 2008 at 11:07 pm |
  12. Alex

    This is a very tragic case for several reasons, the death of anyone being number one. It is obvious however that the now fired officer was not trained to "zap" the suspect that many times with the tazer. A complete investigation should reveal "the state of mind" of the officer, the toxicology and drugs (if any) in the system of the deseased and how that could have an effect on the circumstances and ultimatel death. Finally, a determination needs to be made given THE TOTALITY OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES as to whether criminal charges are to be filed.

    July 28, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  13. lampe

    Murder, means that the officer went to work that day with the sole purpose to kill a Black Man. Is this what you people really think?

    July 28, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  14. Annie Kate

    Tasering the victim 9 times was excessive and makes me wonder if the taser was in the hands of someone who just likes to bully people around and inflict pain. Should he be tried? A resounding yes to that. Whether the victim was black, red, brown, white or green this policeman would need to answer for his actions

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 28, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  15. James Dylan

    Any officer that can't handle a handcuffed man shouldn't have a job. It sounds like his little torture technique got out of hand. To me there is nothing worse, lower, than a person in the law breaking the law.

    July 28, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  16. Stacy - Houston TX

    As stated, the coroner has already declared Pikes’ death a homicide. The next thing is to determine how charges will be applied to the arresting officer.

    In my opinion, if the cop was unable to control the victim, he should have called for back up while the victim was alive and in the back seat of the police car. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and tragically, there was a loss of life.

    The big picture shows, there is a disconnect between the police force and minorities. If we continue on this up hill battle, there will be more instances like this to blog about.

    My heart goes out to the family and they are also in my prayers.

    July 28, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  17. JC- Los Angeles

    Baron "Scooter" Pikes most certainly did not deserve to die at the hands of law enforcement, period.

    What's almost as troubling, is the thought of another unemployed young man being unable to safely walk dwon our streets on PCP and crack cocaine.

    July 28, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  18. m.s.w. of DROAN

    poor policeman ,scared by a hand-cuffed criminal. i'm sure the policeman was injured in the tussle ,obviously close to death himself to use that many shocks. throw the suspect (if convicted) in jail for the min. 3-5 years for manslaughter ...... the inmates await with open arms.

    July 28, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
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