Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Louisiana Taser Death Goes to Grand Jury

On January 12th, Baron "Scooter" Pikes, a 21-year-old sawmill worker, tried to run from police in Winnfield, Louisiana, when they attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for cocaine possession. Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent ran Scooter down. Nugent fired his Taser at Pikes six times in less than three minutes -- shots recorded by a computer chip in the weapon's handle -- in an effort to subdue him. He was handcuffed and then officers put Pikes in the back of a cruiser and drove him to their police station -- where Nugent fired a seventh shot, directly against Pikes' chest.

After the seventh shot, he was dragged out of the car onto the concrete, where he was shocked two more times. When Officer Nugent was finished with him, Scooter was dead... after being Tasered nine times.

A coroner's report found that Scooter had been handcuffed and on the ground when he was first hit with the Taser and might have been dead after the seventh shock from the 50,000-volt device was delivered. The coroner believes that he was shocked two more times after he was dead.

On August 12th, a Louisiana grand jury will convene to decide whether fired Officer Nugent should face criminal charges in the January death of Scooter Pikes, who was Tasered nine times while handcuffed, the parish's district attorney announced Monday.

Winnfield police officers have had Tasers for one year and officers have used them 14 times, according to police records - with 12 of the instances involving black suspects. Ten of the 14 incidents involved Officer Nugent. Officer Nugent is white; Scooter Pikes was black.

How Tasers Work:
The Taser is a conducted electrical weapon developed and manufactured by Taser International, Inc. (Scottsdale, AZ) since the 1970's. Conducted electrical weapons are less than lethal weapons used by thousands of law enforcement agencies in the US. More than 120,000 private US citizens carry a Taser for personal protection. The Taser delivers an electrical pulse, resulting in tetanus like muscle contractions, and sudden death has been associated with its use.

How does it work? The Taser is a weapon powered by 8 AA nickel metal hydride batteries. When the operator fires the device from a distance of as much as 7 meters (21 feet), 2 9-mm barbs (#8 fishhook), attached to the Taser gun by copper wires are discharged. The barbs may hook the skin, but more often the clothing and the electrical impulse can be delivered through 2 inches of clothing. Once contact is made, an electrical pulse (up to 50,000 volts) is discharged for 5 seconds which incapacitates the subject. More electricity is released as the trigger is pulled again.

Voltage is energy potential, but it isn't voltage that poses danger - it is electrical current expressed in amps (amperes). The average current of the Taser is 2 amps (maximum US household current is 240 amps and the threshold for ventricular arrythmias is 50-100 amps).

Estimates of 170 deaths since 1999 have been attributed to Taser use, and while intuitively the thinking may be that the cause is cardiac arrythmias, that does not pan out. While Tasers have been tested on volunteer subjects, those subjects are "healthy workers" and are subjected to one 5 second electrical pulse. The population being subdued by the police may be intoxicated or in a stated of excited delirium - i.e. violent and aggressive.

The American College of Physicians (ACEP) recommends that agitated subjects be brought to the ED for medical evaluation and supportive care. If subjects are intoxicated (alcohol, cocaine, PCP, methamphetamine) or agitated due to psychosis or other unknown reasons, they may be hyperthermic, tachycardic and dehydrated. Supportive medical care - with sedation and intravenous fluids -may prevent death in police custody in these cases. Laboratory studies for drug and alcohol levels and other abnormalities can be done and treated.

[Hat Tip: HealthLine]

Read the CNN.com article on Taser death of Baron "Scooter" Pikes here and here.

plez sez: hopefully, justice will be served. nothing can be done to bring Scotter back to his family, but it is every hope that mr. nugent pays for the torture and murder of mr. pikes.

by all accounts, the taser is effective in disabling a person with one or two shocks. if mr. pikes was already handcuffed and on the ground prior to the first shock, this case borders on calls for charges of torture, indifference to life, first degree murder, hate crime, and any other fancy legal term that can be culled. this may be premature and i'm usually not one to ask for harm to come to people, but this sounds like a capital offense by a racist and sadistic individual who obviously enjoyed the thrill of shocking Black people.

i wouldn't be opposed if the DA went for the death penalty... of course, in the electric chair!


Anonymous said...

I keep thinking that the whole Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich thing will kick in, but somehow I don't think it will be that cut and dry.

tvanel said...

I wasnt aware of this story, thanks for posting this...guess I've been to engulfed with the election...

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

any weapon will do we dont count

Hathor said...

In the description of the taser, the numbers seem wrong. The amount of current that is dangerous is much less. They seem to be off by a factor of a thousand. 1/10th of an amp is sometime enough to kill you.

If for some reason the body is less resistive less say its raining it is possible to deliver the total 2 amps which is definitely fatal. I do not think it is a proper restraint for the police. The taser may not have been developed for law enforcement.

plez... said...

your reference materials show that you are correct. what was cited in the post is probably off by a factor of a thousand. thanks for the heads up!

ROOPA said...

That was six months ago, and to date Nugent has not been charged in connection with the incident. Apparently, he’s the well-connected son of a former police chief, which makes him virtually untouchable in Winn Parish, which is renown for its corruption. Never mind that several witnesses contradict Nugent’s account. In a case that pits a member of the local elite against a black man, that’s the sort of detail that local authorities deem irrelevant.

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