Racial Tensions High After Taser Death

Posted Jul 22, 2008 by Debra Myers
When healthy Baron "Scooter" Pikes suddenly died soon after he was arrested and tasered, there is a sense of something terribly wrong in the little backwoods town of Winnfield, Louisiana. Corruption and cover-ups are just the beginning of this story.
Winnfield, LA - The official website for this little backwoods town boasts, In some ways, visiting the city of Winnfield, Louisiana is like taking a step back in time.
This couldn't be more true. On the 17th of January this past year, Barron Pikes was walking along a street, when Officer Scott Nugent stopped him, and tried taking him into custody because of an arrest warrant citing him for possession of drugs. Pikes took off running but was cornered by another police officer who subdued him in front of a grocery store. Pikes resisted arrest and Nugent subdued him with a shock from a Taser.
Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter said that Pikes fell ill on the way to the police station, telling the officers that he had asthma and was high on crack cocaine and PCP. Although an ambulance was called, Pikes later died at the hospital. This is the original police version, which the Winnfield police still stand by although 6 months have passed since Pikes death.
The bigger question now is, what exactly happened to Pike in the 39 minutes that he was in police custody? He was arrested at 1:28 p.m. and by 2:07 p.m., Pikes was dead. Pikes was allegedly shocked 9 times within that time frame.
To make matters worse, Barron Pike was black and Officer Nugent, the officer alleged to have been the one who tasered Pike repeatedly, was white. All this, just 40 miles away from Jena, LA, where the highly profiled case of the six black teens, labeled the "Jenna 6", who were charged with beating a white teen last year. That case brought forth the largest American civil rights demonstrations in decades. Further still, Pikes is the first cousin to Mychal Bell, who was the top defendant in the Jena 6 case.
It doesn't end here though. The area's own history is a web of corruption, suicides and dirty little secrets that get swept under the rug.
Winnfield was the birthplace of two infamous governors: Huey and Earl Long. Three years ago, a police chief committed suicide after losing an election, because of allegations of fraud and vote-buying which had tainted the election which he'd lost.
Four months later, a district attorney committed suicide after he was alleged to have skimmed some $200,000 from out of his office budget as well as being accused of extorting payments from criminal defendants to make their cases go away.
Police Chief Johnny Ray Carpenter, is a convicted drug offender who received a pardon from a former LA governor, Edwin Edwards. Edwards is now in prison serving time for corruption.
Digging even deeper, Nugent--the officer that tasered Pikes--is the son of the police sheriff that committed suicide, and the protégé of the current chief, who hired him onto the force. Shows what having "connections" can do for a person.
Pikes' step-mother Kayshon Collins believes that a lot of stuff does get swept under the rug in Winnfield. "What the police did to Scooter just isn't right. They would never have Tasered a white kid like that."
Along with Collins, Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner, believes that Pikes' death should have never happened. The autopsy confirmed that Pikes did not have any drugs in his system, nor did he have problems with asthma. He was a very healthy 21-year old.
As well, according to Nugent's own report, Pikes did not resist arrest, and the reason he was tasered, was Pikes' refusal to stand up. Police records state that Nugent tasered Pikes nine times within a 14-minute period, and the last two were at the police station while they were trying to get Pikes out of the police car. Pikes did not respond to those because by then he was unconscious. It was after Pikes was taken into the police station that the ambulance was called.
Williams called in nationally prominent forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden to help with the case and last month, Williams ruled Pikes death was a homicide, due to "cardiac arrest following nine 50,000-volt electroshock applications from a conductive electrical weapon."
"This case may be the most unnecessary death I have ever had to investigate," Williams said. "[Pikes] put up no fuss, no fighting, no physical aggression. The Taser was not used to take him into custody. He just didn't respond quickly enough to the officer's commands."
With the investigation now being headed-up by the LA State Police, no charges have been brought against Nugent yet, but Nugent was removed from the force in May. As soon as all the information is in, the District Attorney, Chris Nevals plans on presenting the case to the grand jury.