Desman LaDuke’s family has sued the officer who killed him in federal court – Read the full lawsuit

Lexington, KY–The estate of Desman LaDuke, who was shot and killed by Nicholasville Police Department Officer Joseph Horton in October, filed suit in federal court today against his killer. LaDuke’s estate alleges excessive force, assault and battery, negligence and gross negligence, and wrongful death. They are also seeking punitive damages.

The lawsuit makes the following factual allegations:

“On October 22, 2022, the decedent, 22-year-old Desman LaDuke, was alone at his residence, located at 233 Green Street, Nicholasville, Kentucky 40356 (“the LaDuke residence”).

Desman was struggling with his mental health, including, but not limited to, coping with the deaths of his mother and his brother, and his own will to live.

On the above date, upon learning that Desman was in possession of a firearm and was suffering from suicidal thoughts, one of Desman’s family members called 9-1-1 and asked that police assist LaDuke at his residence. 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.

Shortly after the 9-1-1 call was made, officers of the Nicholasville Police Department, including Defendant, Joseph Horton (“Horton”), appeared at the LaDuke residence.

The responding officers included members of the Special Response Team (SRT), who were highly armed. Specifically, Horton, an SRT officer, was armed with a sniper rifle.

Although Desman remained calm and cooperative with the officers upon their arrival, the officers proceeded to form a perimeter surrounding the LaDuke residence, with weapons drawn.

During the resulting stand-off, members of Desman’s family pleaded with officers and asked that they be allowed to talk to Desman to de-escalate the situation. The officers refused all such requests by the family and continued escalating the tension.

Approximately an hour and a half into the stand-off, Horton shot Desman, who was still alone inside the home, through his bedroom window. The bullet struck Desman in the chest.

After Desman was shot, officers entered the LaDuke residence and drug Desman to the kitchen floor, leaving a trail of blood from his bedroom to the kitchen.

While Desman laid bleeding on the kitchen floor, officers continued to yell at him, including, but not limited to, telling Desman that it was his own fault that he was shot.

Desman was eventually taken by ambulance to University of Kentucky Hospital, where he died from his injuries later that evening.

When Desman was shot, he was alone in his home. He did not threaten to harm the officers, including Horton, or any other person, nor did Desman brandish or raise his gun in a threatening manner to anyone.

Desman did not use, threaten to use, or indicate any intent to use, any sort of force against the officers, or any other person, at any time throughout the altercation.

Horton was outside of the LaDuke home when he fired his weapon. There existed no reasonable basis to believe that Desman was an imminent threat to anyone other than himself.

At the time Horton shot Desman, no reasonable officer in Horton’s position would have reasonably believed that Desman posed an imminent threat of serious bodily harm to Horton or any other person.

At the time Horton shot Desman, no reasonable officer in Horton’s position would have reasonably believed that use of deadly force was necessary or appropriate.

At the time Horton shot Desman, no reasonable officer in Horton’s position would have reasonably believed that shooting Desman, when he was alone in his home and not threatening anyone, was lawful.”

📸 Patrick J Mitchell