Supreme Court asked to review Taser death
WASHINGTON — Handcuffed but not obeying police commands, the 21-year-old suspect absorbed the first shot from a 50,000-volt stun gun as he lay on the ground.
During the next 14 minutes, a police officer used his Taser on Baron Pikes at least seven more times when Pikes did not follow orders.
Pikes began showing signs of distress a short time later as officers dragged him into the police department building in the central Louisiana town of Winnfield. A little over an hour later, on a January day in 2008, he was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The Supreme Court is being asked to review Pikes’ case as part of a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of his young son against a former Winnfield police officer. If the justices agree to hear the case, it would be the court’s first look at police use of stun guns after turning away appeals from both recipients of the high-voltage shocks and from police officers.
A decision on taking up the issue could be issued as soon as Monday.
Since 2001, stun guns have been listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths in the United States, according to the human rights advocacy group Amnesty International. More than 540 people have died after police use of stun guns in that time, the group said.
“Police departments using these weapons should limit their deployment only to situations which are life threatening or where there is the threat of serious injury,” said Rachel Ward, managing director of research for Amnesty International USA. “What we have now is such a piecemeal approach as to how these weapons are being deployed, when really what is needed is very strict national guidelines on their use.”
Taser International, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., says its stun guns are a safe, nonlethal alternative to firearms.