“Innocence Lost: The Tragic Death of Milton Scott”

By | July 16, 2023

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The story begins in July 1973 with 21-year-old Milton Scott, a young Black man living in Baton Rouge with his wife and daughter. Scott had recently become a member of the Nation of Islam and had changed his name to Milton X Scott. Unbeknownst to him, he was mistakenly identified as a deserter from the Army and was wanted by the FBI.

On that fateful morning, FBI agents Delbert Hahn and William Wood arrived at Scott’s home to make the arrest. Hahn, who had previously interviewed Black Muslims involved in a shootout, felt uneasy when he saw Scott’s religious sign. A brief verbal interaction turned violent, and Scott was shot and killed in his front yard.

Hours later, it was discovered that Scott was a victim of identity theft and the real deserter was already serving a prison sentence. The FBI’s failure to conduct a fingerprint check and the Army’s failure to provide a photo of the deserter were crucial mistakes that led to Scott’s death.

The article explores the opposing viewpoints of Scott’s widow and the FBI agents during the subsequent investigations. Both sides agree that the loss of life could have been prevented. The LSU Cold Case Project delves into the details of the case, shedding light on the significance of the encounter at Scott’s front door and the preconceptions that shaped the tragic outcome.

The article also delves into Scott’s background, his involvement with the Nation of Islam, and the racial tensions of the time. It highlights the animosity towards Muslims in Baton Rouge following a riot involving Black Muslims and the Nation of Islam. These tensions set the tone for Scott’s fatal encounter with the FBI agents.

The story raises important questions about the role of preconceptions in law enforcement interactions with young Black men, a topic that remains relevant today. It serves as a reminder of the need for fair and unbiased policing to prevent unnecessary loss of life..