Wrongful death lawsuit filed against NPD officer

Published 9:00 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

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The estate of Desman LaDuke- the 22-year-old Black man shot in his home after his family made a 911 mental health call for LaDuke’s safety- filed a wrongful death suit against individual Officer Joseph Horton on Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges the Nicholasville Police Department (NPD) officer who shot LaDuke committed five law violations, including excessive force, assault and battery, negligence and gross negligence, wrongful death and survival action, and punitive damages. One count states, “Defendant, Joseph Horton, intentionally, maliciously, and in bad faith applied and threatened to apply unlawful and unnecessary force against Desman LaDuke.” and that the force was “excessive” and “without any legal justification.”

The lawsuit’s “Factual Allegations” tell the story from the perspective of Desman’s estate administrator, John Norman, and their legal team. This story sets up the case against officer Horton before explaining the claims against him.

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The “Factual Allegations” state that Desman was alone at his residence on October 22 and that Desman was struggling with his mental health for reasons “including but not limited to, coping with the death of his mother and brother, and his own will to live.” Once learning he had a firearm and was suffering from suicidal thoughts, one of LaDuke’s family members called 9-1-1 for help.

Shortly after a family member made the call, response teams arrived at the LaDuke residence, including Officer Horton. Horton, armed with a sniper rifle, was a member of the Special Response Team.

NPD sent its Crisis Negotiation Team and Special Response Team to negotiate at LaDuke’s home.

According to NPD’s website, the Crisis Negotiation Team is a trained group of negotiators who respond to suicidal threats, barricaded persons and hostage takers. Their goal is to “open a line of communication aimed at resolving the situation in a nonviolent manner.” The team often works with the tactical team and responds to most of their calls.

The Special Response Team is a tactical team, much like SWAT. Its members receive training to resolve high-risk, tactical situations.

The lawsuit then alleges that although Desman remained calm upon the officers’ arrival, the response teams formed a perimeter around the LaDuke residence with weapons drawn.

“At no time did Desman act violently or make threats against other people; rather, Desman’s family was only concerned with the risk he posed to himself.” The lawsuit alleges.

An hour and a half into the negotiations, LaDuke was shot inside his home through his bedroom window.
According to the lawsuit, officers then entered LaDuke’s home and continued to yell at him, telling him that it was his own fault he was shot.

The Kentucky State Police previously released a statement claiming that after several hours of negotiations, LaDuke “brandished two firearms” and pointed them in the direction of the officers. The statement continues, “Officer Joseph Horton recognized the immediate danger and fired his agency-issued firearm, striking him once.”

However, like the LaDuke family’s letter to the public, the wrongful death suit alleges LaDuke “did not threaten to harm the officers, including Horton, or any other person, nor did [he] brandish or raise his gun in a threatening manner to anyone.”

Matt Minner and Jonathan Fannin filed the complaints on behalf of the Estate of LaDuke Desman. Their news release from last week reads: “Defendant, Joseph Horton intentionally, maliciously, and in bad faith applied and threatened to apply unlawful and unnecessary force against Desman LaDuke.”