Election Section

Mother of Nevada teen slain by BIA officer says son unarmed

The Associated Press
Friday December 14, 2001

ELKO, Nev. — The mother of a teen-ager who was slain by a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer said the officer shot her unarmed son in the back after a struggle at their home on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. 

Jake Thomas, 19, a member of the Duck Valley Reservation Tribe, was shot twice in the upper torso early Sunday by a BIA agent responding to a domestic dispute, BIA officials said. 

Thomas was transported to the Owyhee Community Health Facility, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The BIA has refused further comment pending the outcome of an investigation. The FBI also is investigating. 

Thomas’ mother, Brenda Scissons, 42, Duck Valley, said she was the one who called police to the house about 4 a.m. because her son had been drinking whiskey and had a tendency to become violent when he was drunk. 

“I only wanted them to put him in the drunk tank until he sobered up. I didn’t think he would be killed,” she told the Elko Daily Free Press. 

“People in the community have told me that the BIA police are saying the officer had multiple stab wounds and that my son was shot from the front,” she said. 

But Scissons said it’s not true. She said her son was unarmed. She said he was wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt and could not have concealed a weapon. She said the officer hit him in the head with his flashlight and they struggled before he was shot. 

“My son never hit him with his fist or anything. They hit the rocking chair and fell to the floor and the officer tried to get his cuffs out and dropped them on the floor,” she said. 

Scissons said her son has been arrested by BIA police a few years ago after he struggled with an officer. 

“They know he couldn’t stand to be restrained or in handcuffs,” she said. 

She estimated they struggled for about 10 minutes and both were on their knees when she “got Jake’s attention and I tried to get him to stop fighting. 

“He tried to get up himself and when he was getting up ... the officer told him to calm down.” 

At that point, she said, the officer pulled his gun out of his holster and shot Thomas in the back while he was still on his knees and looking at her. 

The BIA has not identified the officer, who is on a paid leave of absence pending the investigation. But Larry Berger, a New York attorney representing the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, identified the officer as Patrick Pipe. 

“It is much too early to give a substantive comment about these events,” Berger said. 

Officials at the Boise St. Alphonsus Hospital confirmed that Pipe was treated and released Sunday, the day of the shooting. 

Scissons said her 17-year-old daughter charged the officer and he shot her with mace on the porch. She said she heard her son gurgling blood and she turned him on his side, then went outside. 

“I told the officer to call the ambulance because I thought Jake was dying,” she said. “He told me to go back inside or he would shoot me.” 

Later, she said the officer handcuffed her and told her she was under arrest. She said she was freed after an ambulance left with her son. 

Richard Armstrong, law enforcement commander for the BIA’s district office in Phoenix, said in a news release Monday that the officer confronted Thomas and arrested him. 

“The suspect resisted being placed under arrest and a physical fight ensued, which resulted in the police officer being assaulted, sustaining facial lacerations and bruises on his upper eyelid, jaw and head,” Armstrong said at the time. 

“The suspect’s failure to cease his physical attack on the police officer resulted in the officer shooting the suspect twice,” he said. 

Armstrong was out of the office and not available for comment Thursday, a BIA spokeswoman said. 

BIA Criminal Investigator Marc Leber did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Thursday. He told the Elko newspaper three separate and independent investigations are currently under way. 

The first is administrative and is being conducted by BIA internal affairs to determine whether the officer acted within bureau policy. 

The second is a criminal investigation, which Leber is handling. 

Agents from the FBI’s office in Boise also are investigating, he said. 

Leber said if the case goes to trial it will be held in Boise because the crime occurred on the Idaho side of the reservation.