By Eddie Griffin
On Monday, July 21, I published “The Taser Death of Scooter” based up Chicago Tribune’s article “Taser death ignites racial tensions” by Howard Witt. The unconscionable tasing death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes at the hands of a white police officer in Winnfield, Louisiana in January, only a few miles from Jena, gave me reason to dismay at the state of justice in this back wood area where racism is prevalent.
In my commentary, I called upon the U. S. Department of Justice to investigate the case, because I believed that “the state of Louisiana will do nothing”. The fact that Pikes was first cousin of Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell made the circumstances of his death all the more suspicious.
In a breaking development in today’s Chicago Tribune, Howard Witt’s update on the case, “Indictment sought for police Taser death in Louisiana”, offers a glimmer of hope for justice in the case of this young African-American, who was electrocuted by repeated tasing, while begging for his life.
According to the previous report, Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish coroner, determined after investigating the death that officer Scott Nugent administered a total of nine 50,000-volt Taser shocks to Pikes over a 14-minute period-and that the last two jolts were delivered after Pikes had lost consciousness.
After consulting about the case with Dr. Michael Baden, a nationally prominent forensic pathologist, Williams ruled last month that Pikes' death was a homicide. On the death certificate, he listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrest following nine 50,000-volt electroshock applications from a conductive electrical weapon.”
“Seeking to defuse growing racial tensions in the small Louisiana town of Winnfield,” writes Witt, “the local district attorney announced Monday that he will seek an indictment against a white police officer for the death of a black man who was shocked nine times with a Taser device while handcuffed in police custody… Winn Parish District Atty. Chris Nevils said he would convene a grand jury Aug. 12 to consider possible charges against the officer, Scott Nugent, 21, who was fired from the Winnfield Police Department following the death of Baron ‘Scooter’ Pikes.”
Eddie Griffin comment:
Why I wrong about Louisiana authorities, or is the local district attorney under pressure from public outcry? Or, does it really matter, as long as justice prevails?
There is nothing anyone can do to bring Scooter back. But it would be more tragic if the grand jury “No Bills” the officer, as southern grand juries of the past.
I have a depressing memory of how a southern grand jury treated the 1955 lynching case of 14-year old Emmett Till. The grand jury had overwhelming evidence against the assailants, but refused to indict them. Later, in a Look Magazine article, Tills murderers were paid $4,000 to tell their stories. They confused knowing that they could not be tried again. And, at the time, there were no civil rights laws to prosecute hate crimes.
The lynching of this Chicago teenager in the small back wood Delta town of Money, Mississippi spurred an investigation by the NAACP. The investigator, Medgar Evers, was later assassinated on June 12, 1963 by klansman Bryon De La Beckwith, who was tried twice for the murder in the 1960s, but not convicted until 1994.
The summary electrocution death of Baron “Scooter” Pikes may still go unpunished, considering the nature of back woods justice. But it will not go unnoticed.
As for young black men, I would advise that they stay away from police with tasers. And, I would also advise the black community to hold their local police departments accountable for the deployment, use, and abuse of these 50,000-volt devices.