By: Darryl D. Smith Issue date: 1/31/08 Section: News

The Gramblinite

Dubbed a “great place to retire,” Winfield is known for breeding one of Louisiana’s most popular governors by the name of Huey P. Long. Though Winnfield has one of the more popular governors, the city has a dark side.

On Jan. 12, Baron “Scooter” Collins[Pikes] turned 21. Collins was killed five days later on Jan. 17. While full details have not been brought out, Reverend Randy Jewitt has shared what he does know.

Jewitt, a minister of Holland Grove Missionary Baptist Church, said that from what he’s gathered, Collins[Pikes] was allegedly tasered three to six times after being chased by a city police officer.

“Allegedly, (the city police) are saying that there was a bench warrant out for Collins[Pikes] arrest concerning the suspicion of felony drug distribution charges,” Jewitt explained. “We haven’t gotten all the details on all of that. They are not giving us any information on that.”

After Collins[Pikes] was confronted, he was chased into the Kay’s Food Market parking lot, where he was handcuffed. After being handcuffed, Winnfield city police officer Scott Nugen[t] allegedly tasered Collins[Pikes] three to six times in front of dozens of eye witnesses, according to Jewitt.

Collins[Pikes] was then transported to the Winnfield City Police Department where he complained of having chest pains. Collins[Pikes] was then transported to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Jewitt said he cannot confirm whether Collins[Pikes] died at the police station or at the hospital.

However, one thing is clear.

“He’s not with us no more,” Jewitt said solemnly. “It’s tragic that this young man’s life was taken at the hands of a police.”

According to Jewitt, Nugen[t] has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the results of the investigation and the autopsy. Nugen has said that the city is following protocol, but he is still angered by the slow response.

“After the incident happened, the police officer was on duty for almost two weeks,” Jewitt said. Jewitt explained that the current police chief does not have the authority to hire or fire officers nor place officers on administrative leave.

“These city ordinances need to be changed,” Jewitt said. “We need to let the police chief be in control of his own office.”

Jewitt has been immersed in the controversy since it started. Jewitt has been on KAYT 88.1 FM of Alexandria nearly everyday, trying to motivate people to take a stand against what he calls corruption in the city. Jewitt is also planning a march for Feb. 12, the third one since the incident occurred.

The march will start from Martin Luther King Drive in Winnfield and end at the town hall of Winnfield, where the city council will meet.

“We have a lot of corruption going on,” Jewitt said. “This man lost his life at the hands of a police officer that acted completely and totally out of control.”

According to Jewitt, this isn’t the first time Nugen has done this.

“There are people who have suffered at this officer before,” Jewitt explained. “He’s out of control with that thing. He’s tasered three or four more people. We’re looking into that as well.”

There have been rumors that Nugen was trying to join the Ku Klux Klan, but Jewitt said that he did not want to speculate on the rumors, just the facts.

“We’re marching in protest to what has happened,” Jewitt said. “It seems like they are constantly and persistently trying to sweep this under the rug.”

Jewitt is also calling for the eye witnesses to come forward. So far, no one has filed a statement with the police department so an investigation can be launched.

“This happened during one of the busiest hours of the day,” he said. “We have to stand so they can investigate this.”

Collins was buried Saturday, Jan. 26, nine days after the controversy began. With no end clearly in sight, Jewitt is mentally tired.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said. “The family is just hurt. I’m just praying that the people continue to support this family in the loss. It’s tragic that this young man’s life was taken at the hands of police.” © 2008 The Gramblinite

Family of Man Who Died After 950,000[?]Volts from Police Tasers While Handcuffed Seeks Action

Date: Friday, July 18, 2008
By: Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, BlackAmericaWeb.com

The family of a 21-year-old Louisiana man who died in January after being hit with a total of 950,000 volts from several Taser zaps is calling for the prosecution of a police officer who used the tool on Baron “Scooter” Pikes after he already was in handcuffs.

“We want the police officer to be prosecuted for what he done,” Pikes’ stepmother, Kayshon Collins, told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “We got the death certificate from the funeral home in June, and it said the death was a homicide.”

Tony Brown, an Alexandria, Louisiana-based talk show host, has been sounding the alarm about the incident since January when Pikes died.

“They know what has happened, but still the D.A. has not taken any action,” Brown told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

Brown also worked to bring national attention to the plight of six black youths dubbed the Jena Six, who initially faced potential stiff penalties following a fight at school with a white student.

Pikes was the first cousin of Mychal Bell, the only one of the Jena youths sentenced to date in the case.

Winnfield and Jena share some similarities. They are both small towns, separated only by 37 miles along U.S. 84. People who live in Winnfield say young black males there too often face the heavy hand of the law.

The Louisiana State Police Department is investigating the Pikes matter and will submit information to Winnfield Parish District Attorney R. Chris Nevils for consideration within two weeks, Senior Trooper Scott Moreau told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

Moreau would not provide details of the investigation, but said the state troopers were asked in by the Winnfield Police.
A spokesman for Nevils said he can not speak on the details of the case because he has not seen the report from the investigation.

“I cannot and will not judge a case before I have all the facts,” Nevils said in a statement provided to BlackAmericaWeb.com. “But I will assure you that if any persons are found to have committed a crime, they will be prosecuted without regard to who they are. On the other hand, if no crime has been committed, I’m not going to bring charges because it might be a popular thing to do.”

The Louisiana ACLU said that police officers should be handled just as other citizens.  [ACLU-Press Release]

“Police must be accountable for their actions just as others are, and if excessive police force caused Mr. Pikes’ death, the officers must be held accountable,” Marjorie Esman, executive director, said in a prepared statement. “The Louisiana State Police are reviewing this unfortunate death and, if their review indicates that Mr. Pikes died as a result of police misconduct, we expect the District Attorney to prosecute as it would any other death that occurs in Winn Parish.”

The police officer who used the Taser on Pikes has already been fired. “The police chief recommended to the council that he be fired, and the council voted on May 8 to fire him,” Winnfield Lt. Charles Curry told BlackAmericaWeb.com. The firing was related to the Pikes incident and others, he said.

Curry said the officer has appealed his firing and will appear next week before the muncipal civil service board.

The Rev. Randy Prewitt, president of the Winnfield NAACP, said he’s planning a march to coincide with that appeal hearing. “We’ve had two marches already, and we’ll have another one,” Prewitt told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “This is outrageous.”

While some await action on the local level, an attorney representing Pike’s family said he is preparing to file a complaint in federal court, stating that Pike’s civil rights were violated by his violent death.

“Under state law, the family would not be entitled to punitive damages,” Alan Hickman told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “They could be awarded damages through federal court.”

Over 345,000 Taser devices are in the hands of law enforcement offiers at more than 12,700 law enforcement agenicies
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. They are used in dangerous situations,” Tuttle said. “What we declare is that Taser is the safer alternative devise compared to any other use of force tool.”

There are a lot of “misnomers” about Tasers, Tuttle said.

“When a Taser is deployed, it has a five-second cycle. Only incapacitates an individual for five seconds. The second it stops, a human can recover instantly,” Tuttle said. “It prevents coordinated action for five seconds.” In recent studies, Tuttle said, “we’re not seeing cardiac or breathing issues for long exposure in human subjects.”

According to Hickman, one of two attorneys on the case, Pikes had been chased into the woods by police. It was said that he had outstanding warrants.

The capture was made near a school just as the day was ending, Hickman said.

Witnesses reported hearing Pikes say, “You got me. Stop Tasing me,” according to Brown. “He was already in handcuffs.”

Collins, Pike’s stepmother, said he had worked at a saw mill and had not been in trouble with the law previously. “He was quiet and kept to himself mostly. I got two sons, 24 and 26. If he wasn’t with them, he was by himself,” she said, adding that he was raised by his grandmother, Joan Collins.

Pikes leaves behind a four-year-old son.

“Sometimes he asks questions,” Collins said. “He asks where his daddy is.”

Los Angeles Times article.

Chicago Tribune Graphic.

 

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