Louisiana Grand Jury to Probe 50,000-Volt Taser Death

A grand jury in central Louisiana will weigh criminal charges against a former police officer who is accused of jolting a handcuffed man nine times with a Taser before the suspect died, a prosecutor announced Monday.

Winn Parish District Attorney Chris Nevils said the grand jury was scheduled to convene Aug. 12 to begin hearing evidence in the death of Baron Pikes, 21.

Former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent has acknowledged using the 50,000-volt Taser on Pikes while arresting him Jan. 17 on a drug possession warrant, Nevils said.

Nugent was fired in May, but he is appealing that decision.

Last month, a coroner ruled that Pikes' death was a homicide. Nevils office received a copy of a state police report Friday on Pikes' death, but he said information that his office gathered "independently" also factored into his decision to take the case to a grand jury.

"I know there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter," Nevils said in a 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 interest of justice. That is what we intend to do."

Carol Powell Lexing, a lawyer for Pikes' relatives, said the family welcomes the grand jury's probe. "That's a step in the right direction," she said.

Nugent's lawyer, Phillip Terrell, said he isn't surprised that Nevils wants a grand jury sort through the facts of the case.

"Under the circumstances, it was not an unnecessary use of force, and he followed the protocols of the Winnfield Police Department," Terrell said of his client.