LEXINGTON, Kentucky. — A Kentucky police officer who fatally shot a black man with a gun 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 home, “struggling with his sanity” and posing no threat to others when Nicholasville Police Officer Joseph Horton shot him with a gun. a sniper rifle last month. Authorities, however, said LaDuke pointed two guns at officers before he was shot.
LaDuke’s estate disputes this allegation and said LaDuke did not “wield or raise his gun in a threatening manner towards anyone”. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Lexington, also charges Horton with excessive force, 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 grievous bodily harm to Horton or anyone else,” the lawsuit said.
State police said an investigation is continuing, but preliminary information indicates Nicholasville officers responded to a report of a suicidal person with a gun on Oct. 22 at a residence and attempted lengthy negotiations. LaDuke “wielded 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 punched once in the chest and died in hospital.
In addition to damages, the lawsuit seeks “an injunction regarding future police training and implementation of the policy.” Horton was the only defendant listed in the lawsuit.
Attorney Scott Miller, who appears on the lawsuit as representing Horton, told the Lexington Herald-Leader he was not immediately aware of the action and had no immediate comment.
The attorneys who filed the complaint said in a statement to the newspaper that the responding officers should have offered LaDuke help but instead of protecting him, they “took his life.”