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Louisiana Cop Indicted for Tasering Handcuffed Suspect to Death

Black America Web.com, News Report, Sherrel Wheeler Stewart Posted: Aug 17, 2008

A former Winnfield, Louisiana policeman could face up to 45 years in jail if convicted on charges he killed a suspect by shocking him with a Taser.

The charges are in connection with the Jan. 17 death of Baron Scooter Pikes in Winnfield, a small town less than 40 miles from Jena, the scene last year of one of the nations largest modern day civil rights marches.

Pikes died after being shocked with a Taser nine times, according to his death certificate. His family and community activists in Winnfield have said they want the officer to be held accountable for Pikes death.

Wednesday's indictment came eight months after the incident.

Officers said they spotted Pikes and took him into custody on an outstanding warrant.

Witnesses have said that Pikes was handcuffed while he was being Tased. A coroners report said by the time he was zapped with the Taser for the eighth and ninth times, it is possible Pikes was already dead.
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"It is our intention to show at trial that Mr. Nugent caused the death of Baron Pikes by 'Tasing' him multiple times, unnecessarily and in violation of Louisiana law, and by failing to get him medical attention when it was apparent he needed it," said R. Chris Nevils, district attorney of the Eighth Judicial District, which includes Winn Parish. "In a civilized society, abuse by those who are given great authority cannot be tolerated."

No trial date has been set.

Phillip Terrell, one of the attorneys representing Nugent, said his client was doing as he was trained. Because of the format of grand jury presentations, only the district attorney was allowed to present evidence, and he could not cross examine, Terrell said.

Tasers are marketed as being non-lethal. The science will show that the Taser deployment itself did not cause the death, Terrell told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

The Winn Parish coroner has said that Pikes did not have drugs in his system and did not have pre-existing illness that would have contributed to his death.

Pikes mother said she was pleased that the grand jury took action.

Its a shame it took so long, Shena Mangum told BlackAmericaWeb.com. If it was a regular civilian, he would be charged and locked up by now. He shouldnt be treated any different because he is an officer.

Mangum now lives in Atlanta, where she is rearing her three other children.

I was born and raised in Winnfield, and nothing they do there surprises me, but its time for a change," she said.

As a mother, dealing with the death of her son has been difficult, Mangum said. Im just trying to make it through. I am trying to hold up.

Tony Brown, a Louisiana radio host who has worked to keep the Pikes story before the public, said he talked Wednesday with other Pikes family members.

They are pleased that the officer is being formally charged, Brown told BlackAmericaWeb.com. This means that a grand jury in Winn Parish that probably was majority white decided there was enough evidence to bring charges.

Winnfield, a town of about 5,700, is 50 percent black, according to U.S. Census data, and has a black police chief. Still, people familiar with the town say blacks there have been treated differently for years.

In May, the Winnfield City Council voted to fire Nugent, who is the son of one of the towns former police chiefs. That firing was related to the Pikes incident and other issues, an official with the police department told BlackAmericaWeb.com last month.

Nugent is appealing his firing, Terrell said.

In a related matter, an attorney for Pikes family said a civil lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday.

I am seeking civil justice for my client, attorney Carol Powell Lexing told BlackAmericaWeb.com. As for the Wednesday indictment, Lexington called it another step toward justice.

Over 345,000 Taser devices are in the hands of law enforcement officers at more than 12,700 law enforcement agencies across the country, said Steve Tuttle, spokesman for Taser International.

The company has faced 71 claims because of injury or death in the use of Tasers, Tuttle told BlackAmericaWeb.com. The only unfavorable ruling came recently in a California case when a federal jury awarded $6 million to the family of a man who was repeatedly shocked with a Taser.

"You have to keep in mind Taser technology is not risk free," Tuttle said. "They are used in dangerous situations."

Related Articles:

Tasers: NYC Tragedy Waiting to Happen?

Tasers Go Mainstream, But Who's Talking About Race?

San Jose Citizens Say No to Tasers

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