An autopsy on the man who died Saturday after he was shot twice with Taser stun guns by Baton Rouge officers did not yet reveal a definitive cause or manner of death, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said Monday.
Preliminary findings in the death of 32-year-old Kevin Bajoie include evidence of multiple “drugs of abuse” in his urine, skin wounds “consistent with the deployment of an electromuscular disruption device” and “blunt force injuries to the head,” Clark said. Investigators are now waiting on toxicology tests and histology exams — microscopic inspection of tissue, including from the brain and heart — which will be available in three to four weeks, he said.
“It’s always a possibility with any death that it could remain ‘undetermined,’ but my hopes and intentions are that we come to a conclusion with the data we have,” Clark said. He could not elaborate on the source of Bajoie’s head injuries, but said the stun gun wounds were from electrodes that shoot from the device, rather than direct contact between the body of the instrument and the skin. The stun gun probes, intended as a form of “less-than-lethal” force, deliver a 50,000-volt shock lasting five seconds, said BRPD spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola.
Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Jace Ducote and Officer Maurice Duke are on paid administrative leave pending a review of the incident, which is a standard procedure, said Coppola, who could not confirm Monday whether the stun gun recorded video footage of the incident.
Bajoie, of Zachary, was approached by an officer responding to a report of fighting at 9908 Avenue C about 11:30 a.m. Saturday when he jumped up from the ground and tried to attack the officer, according to a BRPD news release. Bajoie’s “unprovoked, aggressive, erratic behavior,” the statement says, prompted two additional officers, Ducote and Duke, to use Taser stun guns in two separate moments on Bajoie, who died later that day at a hospital.
Clark said he wasn’t aware of anything in Bajoie’s autopsy or medical history indicating the deceased man suffered from pre-existing health problems that would have contributed to his death. That assessment echoed a comment Sunday by Lawrence Bajoie, Kevin Bajoie’s father, that he didn’t think his son had underlying medical issues.
BRPD has never been responsible for anyone’s death labeled as “Taser-related,” including Bajoie’s, said Coppola, adding that only the coroner can make the official determination on a cause of death. Since 2014, there have been at least 13 deaths linked to the use of stun guns by law enforcement in south Louisiana. Autopsy reports in those deaths show findings ranging from drug intoxication to cardiac arrest. Clark said he’s never heard of stun guns being named the direct cause in someone’s death, but said stun gun use could be part of a combination of other factors.
Nearly all BRPD patrol officers carry Taser weapons and are re-certified yearly, said Coppola.
The department did not make available Monday a free copy of its internal policies regarding stun guns, but Coppola said each stun gun use by officers is documented as a use-of-force incident, and “must be justified based on the level of resistance the officer encounters.”
“There are no set number of times that officers are authorized to strike, kick, shoot or tase a suspect,” he said. “The level of force used must be proportionate to the level of resistance and all force stops immediately as soon as the suspect complies, submits to the arrest or is taken into custody.”
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