Winn jury to consider charges in Taser death

By Abbey Brown • abrown@thetowntalk.com • July 29, 2008

WINNFIELD ­– A Winn Parish grand jury will consider criminal charges against the former Winnfield police officer who earlier this year shot a man with a Taser stun gun nine times minutes before the man died.

Winn Parish D.A. Chris Nevills

Winn Parish District Attorney Chris Nevils said Monday the grand jury will convene on Aug. 12 to consider the Jan. 17 death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes, 21, who died in Winnfield police custody after being shot nine times by former Officer Scott Nugent, 21.

Pikes’ death certificate classified his death as a homicide and stated he died as a result of cardiac arrest caused by nine shocks of 50,000 volts from a conductive electrical weapon, Winn Parish Coroner Dr. Randy Williams said. Pikes may have been dead before the last two shocks were administered, Williams said.

Nevils said his decision to send the case to the grand jury came after receiving the results Friday of a Louisiana State Police investigation of the January incident, the coroner’s investigation and an investigation done by his office.

Winnfield Police in January said Pikes began acting strangely after being brought to the jail by police, prompting them to ask him if he had taken any drugs. Pikes is alleged to have told them he had ingested PCP and crack cocaine and was asthmatic.

Williams said Pikes had no PCP or crack cocaine in his system and that there is no record of him having had asthma.

What there was evidence of was that five minutes after police had Pikes in custody — on his stomach and handcuffed after he had run from officers for about three minutes — he was shot by Nugent with the Taser six times. Those six shots came within 190 seconds of one another, with the last five being “drive stuns,” in which the taser is stuck directly into the skin, and the first being from a cartridge.

Minutes later, Pikes was carried to the patrol car, Williams said, where the probes of the Taser’s cartridge were removed by the officer. Once at the police station, Pikes was ordered to get out of the patrol car but didn’t.

Williams said he isn’t sure if Pikes was able to get out, but Nugent shot him with the stun gun again while Pikes was sitting in the back seat, the coroner said.

Officers pulled Pikes out of the car, pushed him to the ground, and Nugent shot him with the stun gun two more times, Williams said. At this point, there was no reaction from Pikes, and he remained unconscious, Williams said. In total, Williams said, the nine shocks were all given within a 14-minute time span.

Although Winnfield Police initially told the media that Pikes became “sick” while being booked at the jail, Williams said Pikes clearly was unconscious before he was carried into the Police Department.

The clear cause of death, he said, was electrocution.Winnfield Coroner Dr. Randy Williams

“Every other reasonable possibility has been excluded,” Williams said.

Nugent was put on administrative leave less than a week after the incident and was fired by the Town Council after more than four months on leave. He has since appealed his firing to the Civil Service Board, and its decision is expected later this month.

Nugent’s attorney Phillip Terrell said Nugent is “anxious” to tell his side of the story and that in due time — when “all the facts are made public” — a different “appreciation” of what happened will be known. He stressed that both he and Nugent see what happened to Pikes as a terrible tragedy.

“He never expected something like this to happen when he did as he was trained to do and told by his supervisors,” Terrell said of Pikes and the incident. He pointed out that Nugent is Peace Officers Standards Training certified, Taser certified and that he was doing what a 15-year police veteran on the scene told him to do when he shot Pikes with the Taser stun gun.

“After all of this is said and done we are confident that they will find no criminal culpability on (Nugent’s) part,” Terrell said.

“Every other reasonable possibility has been excluded,” Williams said.

Nugent was put on administrative leave less than a week after the incident and was fired by the Town Council after more than four months on leave. He has since appealed his firing to the Civil Service Board, and its decision is expected later this month.

Nugent’s attorney Phillip Terrell said Nugent is “anxious” to tell his side of the story and that in due time — when “all the facts are made public” — a different “appreciation” of what happened will be known. He stressed that both he and Nugent see what happened to Pikes as a terrible tragedy.

“He never expected something like this to happen when he did as he was trained to do and told by his supervisors,” Terrell said of Pikes and the incident. He pointed out that Nugent is Peace Officers Standards Training certified, Taser certified and that he was doing what a 15-year police veteran on the scene told him to do when he shot Pikes with the Taser stun gun.

“After all of this is said and done we are confident that they will find no criminal culpability on (Nugent’s) part,” Terrell said.

Winnfield Police Lt. Charles M. Curry

Winnfield Police Lt. Charles Curry said Monday that the department has never tried to cover up the incident and immediately called in an outside agency — State Police — to look into it. The department also is looking into the actions of the other officers working during the incident and is retooling its Taser use policy and procedures.

Williams said that if even part of the department’s policy or procedures had been followed, this “unnecessary death” could have been prevented.

While some have tried to compare this case with that of the “Jena Six” — in which six black teenagers were charged in connection with the beating of a fellow white student — officials said this case has absolutely nothing to do with race.

“This is about a police officer who used a weapon to affect an arrest,” Curry said. “I don’t care if they are black, white or yellow. This isn’t a race issue — it’s a people issue.”

Carol Powell-Lexing, who is representing Pikes’ family, said the family wants justice by way of the perpetrator — Nugent — being held responsible for his actions.

“Mr. Pikes was executed by electrocution,” she said. “And after his death (police) tried to cover it up, shove all this under the rug. … (Pikes) didn’t struggle with officers. He did nothing to cause him to be put to death.”

A Winn Parish grand jury will consider charges against former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent in the death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes, who died in January after being Tasered nine times while in police custody following a foot chase from this pawn shop on U.S. Highway 84 in Winnfield to the vacant lot behind it.

A Winn Parish grand jury will consider charges against former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent in the death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes, who died in January after being Tasered nine times while in police custody following a foot chase from this pawn shop on U.S. Highway 84 in Winnfield to the vacant lot behind it.