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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. DEBORAH ADAMS

    ACCUSED...of a crime,
    Well,that's nothing new.
    If you are in a black man's skin,
    It is what could happen to you!

    ARRESTED..on suspision
    Wheteher guilty or not,
    He was treated differently
    And didn't deserve the treatment he got.

    TASERED...to show him he has to be controlled!
    Handcuffed and face down,
    Anothher black man on the ground.

    KILLED...for no apparent reason
    So what does that indicate?
    Was it racial or his own fault?
    Either way,there's no end to this hate!

    July 28, 2008 at 8:02 pm |
  2. Kelly

    I am very surprised that so many people on this Blog want the Officer to go to jail. 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.
    For anyone who makes a comment that the Officer could have used other means, please take yourself off to the closest police department and ask to go on a ride-along. See for yourself how dangerous the streets are in many parts of this Country. Then sit down with the ones left behind when their loved one (a police officer) is killed in the line of duty. Police work in this Country is still a dangerous profession.
    Go to a police officer funeral and then pass judgment on the officers who make split second decisions in dangerous situations. I would rather my husband protect himself and come home.
    We can pray that any jury will see that Officers make serious life threatening decisions (in a matter of seconds, not with this 20/20 hindsight) and as a community you should support them. If this Officer is found to have broken the law, then, and only then should any of us pass judgment.

    July 28, 2008 at 7:53 pm |
  3. lampe

    If, he had nothing to hide than why did he try to resist arrests? I am sick of all these goody-two shoes, who always have something negative to say about The Police. I would like to see you do their job, for just one day. They never know from one minute to the next if the person they stopped, has a gun or shot someone else. If you are not doing anything wrong,then you should have nothing to worry about. If that man had broke into your home, or hurt one of your children than you would be talking out the other side of your mouths. BIGOTS!

    July 28, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Gerald C. A. Layne, Sr

    To Sharon Thomas
    “Just because some run to that give another person the right to kill them. Have you ever been afraid and run before from anything.”
    Yes, I have. But understand this, I never ran from the cops or anyone in the streets, for that matter, I ran Army PT. Sure, I got my life together because I was afraid of dying a petty drug dealing bum in the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. Surprisingly, “Service before Self” does work and has place in today’s society more than ever.
    Maybe, if you quit making excuse for bad behavior, irresponsible males and celebrate good black men you wouldn’t be picking your jaw up off the ground every time someone says something you don’t agree with.

    July 28, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  5. Ari Cole

    Dear Readers,

    ShALOHA.

    This is really a sad event that borders on murder after torture.

    In the fine state of Louisiana there appears to be something very convert going on- killing of African American males. This type of situation reminds me of the dark days of the 50's and 60's in the deep South with lynchings of African American males.

    This officer had a duty to protect this young man and tortured him to death. Maybe his punishment should include 3 times the number of electric shocks given to his victim plus 9 years imprisionment???

    America cannot point their fingers at any other country such as China until we investigate recent jailhouse hangings and this tazing to death of arrested African American males...

    How does Senator Obama feel about this issue....No words from his Campaign...WHY???

    Ari Cole
    Harvard Kennedy School of Government Alumnus 2008

    July 28, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  6. KLH

    Black parents.. did you hear what D.L Hugley told his son?... "Son, don't smart off to a cop. Be respectfull and ask that he call me".. This may not keep him/her totally out of trouble but at least they won't get tazed or shot to death only to become a story of saddness to be debated by the blind (to injustice) and persecuted (the rest of us)

    July 28, 2008 at 6:43 pm |
  7. Mark

    John,

    Well well, heaven forbid a civillian might have an opinion without the benefit of "law enforcement experience. In which case, I assume we should sit quietly and docile, and do what were told

    As it stands, there were 14 incldents in that town in which he was involved in 10 of them. Spare me the "cop talk", I've heard the rationalizations before. I could understand if the offender was coming at you or there was indication of weapon, or a genuine sense he posed a threat to you or himself. But in the back seat cuffed? And dont tell us you dont know the facts, that was the coroners statement.

    We had a man in Vancouver that suffered an anxiety attack *after* exiting a plan in the main concourse; one single man, a whole airport of security staff that dwarfed the smaller man. And he too ended up dead from multiple taser shots.

    I may not be law enforcement, but I can see a pattern.

    July 28, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  8. Nick

    Volts do not kill, Amps kill. TASER has very low amps. TASER is harmless, it just hurts, very bad. I was not there, but let us not forget, the guy who died was under arrest for drug charges, and was resisting the police officer. A rational cooperative person would not resist the Police, especially after a TASER hit.

    July 28, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  9. Steve from Michigan

    Hey, The cop murdered the guy. Let him see how He likes to bunk with Bubba and everyone else who kills someone.

    July 28, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  10. Brian DeArmon

    I can't believe some of the idiotic comments I am reading here, then again iguess I can never mind that the initial police report said the the suspect was under the influence of durgs. Yet the autopsy reavealed no drugs in his system and as another person mentioned in a previous post, after receiving the amount shocks that he did his muscles were more than likely shot. I cannot say for sure that racism was involved but I suspect that it was, but excessive force absolutely. The doctor who performed the autopsy even called it a homicide for the people who post on here to say otherwse are either racist themselves or idiots. He was a criminal who has the right of due process according to the law, in this instance the arresting officer was judge, jury and executioner and for that he he the officer should be punished.

    July 28, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  11. MJK

    I say fire the police department and have no law enforcement in the state. This should fix everything...

    I'll wait for the details... if the cop was wrong let the court decide. Being handcuffed doesn't stop you from resisting, kicking, biting, etc...

    If the cop didn't have to do it... sentence him... but twelve people with the facts will have to decide that...

    July 28, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  12. joe

    If the Taser doesn't subdue an individual after two shocks it is worthless. The Rodney King case is an example of a Taser not working to subdue a suspect and the police resorted to other means.
    Most major police departments caution against multiple shocks because most Taser related deaths have occurred after multiple shocks and because on June 28, 2005, Taser International issued a revised training bulletin in which it cautioned users about prolonged or continuous exposure to the Taser by persons suffering from excited delirium and notes that such persons face "significant and potentially fatal health risks from further prolonged exertion and/or impaired breathing." See Taser Intl Training Bulletin 12.0-04. Ironically, Taser Intl argues that there is merely a correlation instead of causation between the use of a Taser and deaths that occur after the use of a Taser. This case proves their case since based on their cautionary bulletin it appears that "operator error" occurred, i.e. in the vernacular of the man on the street, "whoops, the officer really screwed up this time."

    July 28, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  13. justin w

    This person was executed on accident in a very horrific way. I thought we save the electric chair for our worst.
    If the unintentional conduct amounts to such gross negligence and indifference to human life, this may be considered to constitute malice. In such a case, the charged offense may be murder, often characterized as second degree murder.
    Were there any other cops on the scene?
    An accomplice is a person who actively participates in the commission of
    a crime, even though they take no part in the actual criminal offense.

    Thanks CNN keep up the good work.

    July 28, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  14. Larry

    Hmm I wasn't there, so I guess I'll have to take everyone elese's word for it and go with the mob.

    July 28, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  15. Sharon Thomas

    To Gerald Layne C.A. Sr.

    just because some run to that give another person the right to kill them. Have you ever been afraid and run beforefrom anything.

    July 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  16. Heather

    I really can't believe that you actually have to ask this question. Of course its murder! He killed him! A tazer isnt a toy. Its a weapon . Its also a device that when used properly in the way it was designed, it doesnt kill people. This schmuck was in over his head and thought oh well the guy isnt moving might as well keep tazing him. The cop is an idiot and should be fired and tried criminally for this guys death.

    July 28, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  17. Isaac

    It's obvious from the autopsy report that the police are lying. The man was handcuffed, and posed no danger to anybody. Not only should the officer in question be punished for murder, but the entire department should be investigated for covering for him.

    July 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  18. Mike in NYC

    To Layla:

    What "the American people and lawmakers are in abhorrent denial of" are the disproportionately high levels of crime committed by "protected groups." Even in cases where unnecessary force may have been used by the police, my sympathy reserves are quite low, and dropping daily.

    Understandable frustration on the part of police may have played a role here. I'm willing to see this case run its course before making a final judgment.

    You wrote:

    "This nation is poised on the brink of self destruction."

    The disproportionately high levels of crime I mentioned above are a major factor in that self-destruction.

    July 28, 2008 at 5:00 pm |
  19. Gerald C.A. Layne, Sr.

    Noelle,
    I know that what was reported in local and other news reports per the subject. The deceased took flight and ignored orders to stop running from the law. The first law of nature is self preservation. Unless his out of shape physique had fast feet and iron lungs, running didn’t get it!
    How do you know that he wasn’t resisting arrest while the police were trying to get and keep him in custody? An arrest warrant and fleeing perp speaks for itself!

    July 28, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  20. Scott

    One thing I fail to see anyone speaking about is the fact that this is yet another victimless crime that cost a human life. Why a man or woman should die at the hands of authorities for a supposed crime is ridiculous. I could possibly understand if he was a murderer on the run, but not a man charged with possesion of a stupid illegal substance. What if this was your son? I'm not saying him possessing cocaine was right, but theres no reason the kids life should be taken for it. Hand-cuffed and in the back of a squad car seems to be sufficient restraint. So why is he dead?

    July 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  21. Melissa, Los Angeles

    Just because a person is handcuffed, on the ground or in the back of a police car does not make that person any less dangerous – just watch Cops.

    July 28, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  22. Linda

    The cops are only The Law as long as the people allow them to be. Strip that officer of his badge and toss his butt in the clink!

    July 28, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  23. Noelle

    Pretty obvious that this cop is a problem, they said that of the 14 Taser incidents in this town, this cop was involved in 10 of them. And to Gerald Layne, how do you know this guy was resisting arrest? Sounds like he was tasered AFTER being handcuffed and put in the car, I'd like to hear how that is justified. I believe in the whole innocent until proven guilty, but this cop is going to have to come up with a pretty good story to justify this kind of treatment. Like maybe the insanity plea.

    July 28, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  24. layla

    No brainer. Yes. The accused was cuffed and imobilized. The tazer was a form fo "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited under the Contsitution of the United States of America. If this officer is not charged with, at the very least, manslaughter, and if he does not serve time in jail for this death, then it is safe to say that racism and police harrassment in this country is per se existent and condoned at all levels of our government and that the American people and lawmakers are in abhorrent denial of it. I am disgusted. Completely digusted. This nation is poised on the brink of self destruction. God forgive America and humanity, for they know not what they do.

    July 28, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  25. brenda priest

    i live in St. Louis, Missouri, and my Nephew was killed by the police, shot in the back, and while on the ground, shot in the head. They claimed he had gun–no one found. That was senseless and so is this....That young man lost his life at the hands of a very cruel individual, who should have to pay for what he did. He was hired to protect and serve not take a life. To shock that young man, while he was handcuffed was a criminal act, that needs to be in a court of law. Good for CNN!!!!

    July 28, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  26. Julie

    There are physiological responses to being Tasered. Law Enforcement that use this 'none-lethal' device need to understand that it eventually can be lethal because of the chemical mechanisms of body systems. Law Enforcement can subdue an individual who is non-cooperative or combative but need to be reminded that a person should be able to recover once Tasered.

    July 28, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
  27. C

    I am, certainly, impressed with this group of comments. I didn't read one word that I would necessarily consider hateful. What I've read is a bunch of people reasoning that "nine" times – tased – is excessive at best; not reasonable force, not in line with departmental procedures – God forbid – and possibly, even, manslaughter; as opposed to outright murder, which would be hard to improve.

    Wow! This is, highly, unusual. Yet, I have this feeling that people are coming around. I don't know if it has anything to do with that whole "Black in America" thing or not; but I'm not getting the usual – he's probably a crimimal who should be killed mentality.

    This is good.

    God Bless You All

    July 28, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  28. Gerald C.A. Layne, Sr.

    Ok people, why did the CNN story fail to mention the deceased ran and evaded arrest? A murder may had occurred, but present all the facts. All I see is a knee jerk story with jerks crying racism. Black boys who think they are men don’t have enough common sense to realize don’t run if you want to live. Had this young brother accepted the arrest and fought it later, he would be alive and able to file a grievance for wrongful incarceration. Now, he is just another dead black drug dealer for someone to make a name for themselves on. When the truth comes out, it will be all on who was protecting and who was destroying our society. I don’t know if the officer should be convicted, but if the evidence proves he is a animal with a badge, then I hope the death penalty is put on the table.

    July 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  29. Mike in NYC

    Claudia, Houston, Tx wrote:

    "This isn’t about racial injustice...”

    But there's no shortage of people ready to take that ball and run with it. With BO as the Man of the Hour, ‘tis the season.

    D in Texas wrote:

    "All 3 were Mexican...."

    Since you didn't say "Mexican-American," I take it they were illegals. Pardon me if I hold back a few tears on that one.

    Mike wrote:

    "Why isn’t the cop being given the same treatment from you people?"

    Because a lot of folks like to keep their outrage on tap. They're just waiting for an "issue" that’ll let them cut loose.

    July 28, 2008 at 4:03 pm |
  30. David M. Pitts

    This incident is just one of many that take place in small-town

    America. If it were not for people like Anderson, this story wouldn't

    have recieve the attention.

    July 28, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  31. Diaa

    Regarding: "There are strong feelings on both sides..."

    Forgive me, but I'm not able to imagine that anyone feels that this was right.

    July 28, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  32. Mike

    Funny, I've read many responses that claim the victim should have been viewed as "innocent until proven guilty", but does the police officer get the same treament? Mostly what I've read in the comments on this article and the previous article don't automatically condemn the victim, but most assuredly condemn the police officer. Why isn't the cop being given the same treatment from you people? Is the officer automatically guilty? Hypocrites you're all.......

    July 28, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  33. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    The question doesn't even need to be pondered..............absolutely..............the officer is definitely in the wrong and needs to go to prison for murder.

    July 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  34. Bill

    Definite investigation needs to be done, if not alone the officer in question, but the department and how they train their officers also.
    It may or may not been racially motivated, but the officer was not in control of his emotions and using common sense judgement.

    July 28, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
  35. Marie K.

    I definitely believe he should be tried, and convicted. What he did was wrong and he should have to pay for it. He abused his power as a police officer and his authority to employ a TASER, and a man lost his life because of it.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  36. nerakami, Miami

    I think you said it all Nicole...

    too often... too fatal... too sad.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  37. D in Texas

    There has been so much brutality by police everywhere in the US. In my own town, there have been at least 3 killed by police. Police claim that they were in danger. 1 of those killed had a fork in his hand, why not shoot him in the leg and take the fork away from him. There other person was in his car in the driveway, mentally handicapped and surrounded by more than 4 squad cars. They all shot him while he was sitting in the car. I'm sure not all of them were in danger. Why not shoot the at the tires instead of the person. No weapons found. he other person, was in a police chase from nother small town, finally came to a stop at the apartment where he lived. Before he get off the car, they shot him. No weapons found. My God! Shoot the tires. All 3 were Mexican, killed at the hands of an Anglo policeman because they claimed their life was in danger. In this instance and in other instances, when it comes to being Taser, I do not think you would be able to move fast enough for anyone. Try putting your finger in a light bulb socket and find out how many seconds it takes for your body to feel normal again. Can you imagine being tased and having to move fast enough for a police officer? I would think that the body is in so much shock that you don't even know where you are much less comprehend what is being said to you.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  38. adam

    The excuse that he was afraid for his life is unacceptable and a cop out. We treat our enemy prisoners in Iraq better, this cop should be convicted so as to send a clear message, that EVERYONE must follow the law. He was not justified in murdering this guy, police officers receive training on how to deal with HANCUFFED suspects and im more than sure non of them include tasering someone that cant get off the ground fast enough. Its power hungry idiots like him that give the REAL officerss of the law a bad name. CLEAN IT UP!!!!!

    July 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
  39. Marcia

    Isn't it called excessive force? When a person who is supposed to not only uphold the law but keep safe those in their custody goes off the deep end it shouldn't be ignored.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  40. Teresa, OH

    From a general standpoint: fired, charged, and imprisoned for murder. Even if he isnt charged with any crime, I still think he should be fired for not knowing how to treat a human being.

    I sure would like to see ANY video of this incident. Some of the tazing could be put to self-defense if he was resisting arrest. But that many tazings... and some reported while cuffed and in the car are uncalled for.

    We truly need to see some video before to make a good decision.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  41. Scott

    Question for law enforcement: Why would you need to tase someone that is handcuffed and on the ground or in the backseat of the car? What more physical advantage is required or is needed to be gained once an individual is in the backseat of the car?

    July 28, 2008 at 2:07 pm |
  42. Mindy Chatsworth, Ca.

    I don't think that there is anything added to this discussion by saying that this policeman should be sent to San Francisco, since they let murderers go. Does this mean that a taser-happy cop who is out of control, should then wreak havoc on a city that someone does not particularly like? That is a twisted piece of logic if ever there was one.

    I think this horrific incident should be thoroughly investigated. I don't want to have any policemen use the same old excuse that all of us poor, ignorant civilians have no idea what it's like to confront offenders. I think being tasered nine times seems more than excessive. There are too many of these cases. No one should die because they committed a crime. It's not the policeman's job to be judge, jury and executor.

    July 28, 2008 at 1:59 pm |
  43. Becky, PA

    I'm sorry but I think he should be tried. You don't tase someone nine times to get them to comply.

    July 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  44. Nicole

    I would like to think the police didn't have the intention to kill this man but at the very least excessive force was used. But we have already seen this headline before, "another black man killed at the hands of the police", talk about being "Black in America".

    July 28, 2008 at 1:38 pm |
  45. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    This isn't about racial injustice, this is about a murder and should be thoroughly investigated. We are all God's children and it's not okay to justify any murder based upon a ethnic group.

    July 28, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  46. John

    I don't know all the facts in this case. I wasn't present and can't conclude anything from the lame reporting of CNN as usual. Paul and David above have nothing to base their comments on not being law enforcement.

    Per TASER Int. training and being a law enforcement officer it is entirely possible and reasonable to say that Officer Nugent followed department policy on TASER use. I personally have delivered up to five taser jolts to a potentially armed suspect that had just burned his wife's house down and called her to tell her he was on the way to shoot her with his shotgun.

    He refused to comply after being given verbal commands and follow my orders to ensure my safety and his. Each time he chose not to comply I tased him again. After the fifth application he chose to comply. The only alternative would have been to shoot him given all of the facts. In this case the TASER saved his life and potentially mine.

    That said I will also admit that it is possible that this case was racially motivated and an excessive use of force but let's avoid the mob mentality that CNN loves to stir up rather than get the details and report them so that we can make an informed decision on our own.

    July 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm |
  47. M. W.

    Yes, he should be charged, tried and convicted!!! No excuse for what this police officer did!

    July 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm |
  48. Jim .-

    Send the Taser Happy Cop to San Fransisco They let other murderers stay there as CNN has reported & Nothing is Done
    I'm Sure the Mayor there would get a Charge out of him.

    July 28, 2008 at 1:15 pm |
  49. Paul Polk

    After nine taser shots there should have been other measures taken to control the subject. You don't give an overdose of anything if the immediate results are not obtain-that being the rule in any case. If the subject had a lethal weapon other that his own body to attack with ;then, lethal measures may have been warranted. If the life of the officer was not in immediate danger and he had proper back-up and assistance the nine taser shots should have been unnecessary, in which case it would have been a wrongful measure.

    July 28, 2008 at 1:04 pm |
  50. David

    Fired, charged and prosecuted, here is the real kicker his lieutenant doesn't think it was racial! Fire the whole damn department I say!

    July 28, 2008 at 12:52 pm |
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