LEXINGTON, Ky. November 17, 2022 A Kentucky police officer who fatally shot an armed Black man during a standoff is facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the man’s estate.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday says Desman LaDuke, 22, was alone in his house, was “struggling with his mental health” and posed no threat to others when Nicholasville Police Officer Joseph Horton shot him with a sniper rifle last month. Authorities, however, have said LaDuke pointed two guns at officers prior to being shot.
LaDuke’s estate disputes that allegation and said LaDuke did not “brandish or raise his gun in a threatening manner to anyone.” The lawsuit, which was filed in Lexington federal court, also accuses Horton of excessive force, assault and battery, and negligence in LaDuke’s death.
“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,” the lawsuit said.
State police said an investigation was continuing but preliminary information indicates that Nicholasville officers responded on Oct. 22 to a report of a suicidal person with a firearm at a residence and attempted lengthy negotiations. LaDuke “brandished two firearms while inside the residence in front of a bedroom window” and pointed them in the direction of officers, police said in a statement.
“Officer Joseph Horton recognized the immediate danger and fired his agency-issued firearm,” police said. LaDuke was struck once in the chest and died at a hospital.
In addition to damages, the lawsuit seeks “injunctive relief regarding future police training and policy implementation.” Horton was the only defendant listed in the lawsuit.
Attorney Scott Miller, who is listed on the lawsuit as Horton’s representative, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he wasn’t immediately aware of the action and didn’t have any immediate comment.
The attorneys who filed the complaint said in a statement to the newspaper that responding officers should have offered help to LaDuke but instead of protecting him, they “took his life.”