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Taser death case heads to grand jury

  • Story Highlights
  • Prosecutor says he'll seek a grand jury to probe death of man Tasered by cop
  • Brandon Pikes died in January after police officer Tasered him nine times
  • District attorney: "My obligation ... is to objectively sort through the facts"
  • Coroner ruled the death a homicide
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From Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick
CNN
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(CNN) -- A Louisiana grand jury will decide whether a fired police officer should face criminal charges in the January death of a man who was Tasered nine times while handcuffed, the parish's district attorney announced Monday.

Baron Pikes, 21, was Tasered nine times by a police officer in January in Winnfield, Louisiana.

Baron "Scooter" Pikes, a 21-year-old sawmill worker, had tried to run from police in Winnfield, Louisiana, when they tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for cocaine possession.

But a coroner's report found Pikes had been handcuffed and on the ground when first hit with the Taser and might have been dead before the last two shocks from the 50,000-volt device were delivered.

"I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter," Winn Parish District Attorney Christopher Nevils said in a written statement. "But my obligation and that of the grand jury is to objectively sort through the facts and make a decision that is in the best interests of justice."

Nevils' announcement follows a Louisiana State Police investigation into Pikes' death.

Investigators delivered the results of that probe to the district attorney's office last week, and the grand jury will convene August 12, he said. The results of the state police investigation remain sealed. See how Tasers work »

The officer who arrested Pikes, Scott Nugent, was suspended after the fatal incident and was fired in May. His attorney, Phillip Terrell, was unavailable for comment on the announcement, but told CNN earlier that his client had followed proper police procedure.

A lawyer for the Pikes family, Carol Powell-Lexing, called news of the grand jury a "welcome development."

Nugent is white; Pikes was black. His death led to demonstrations that drew several dozen people in Winnfield, where the population of about 15,000 is roughly half African-American.

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In the year since Winnfield police received Tasers, officers have used them 14 times, according to police records -- with 12 of the instances involving black suspects. Ten of the 14 incidents involved Nugent, who had no public disciplinary record.

Police said Pikes told officers he suffered from asthma and had been using PCP and crack cocaine.

But Dr. Randolph Williams, the Winn Parish medical examiner, said he found no sign of drug use in the autopsy and no record of asthma in Pikes' medical history. Video Watch coroner describe how Pikes might've been dead after 7 shocks »

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Williams said he had two nationally known forensic pathologists, review the case before issuing his conclusions on the cause of death.

He said it's possible Nugent was shocking a dead man the last two times he pulled the trigger. "This fellow was talking in the back seat of the car prior to shot number seven," Williams said. "From that point on, it becomes questionable [if Pikes was still alive]."

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