Nicholasville police officers who showed up at the home of a 22-year-old Black man and ultimately shot him left him wounded for several minutes before they got into his home to provide him first aid, according to body camera footage obtained by the Herald-Leader through the Kentucky Open Records Act.
Desman LaDuke, whose family says he was experiencing a mental health crisis when police showed up to his home, was shot once in the chest by an officer and later died. His family said police didn’t need to respond to the situation by shooting him, and police said LaDuke had guns drawn on police from inside his home when they shot him on Oct. 22, 2022.
Body camera footage wasn’t made available until recently, as KSP previously said the records were exempt from public records law while the case was still under investigation. The investigation concluded when a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot LaDuke.
Body camera footage doesn’t provide more insight into whether LaDuke pulled guns on police, as Kentucky State Police edited the video — the portion of the video in which police shot LaDuke and entered his home was redacted, and only audio of that portion was provided. KSP told the Herald-Leader that showing the inside of LaDuke’s home in the video would violate state law. In the redacted video, an unidentified officer can be heard asking LaDuke why he pointed guns at police.
The redacted video does indicate that police waited about six minutes between shooting LaDuke and going into his home.
The officer who shot LaDuke didn’t have body camera video from the incident. The footage provided was from another responding officer. A large police presence was present at the scene, and it is unclear who some officers are in the footage and audio provided by state police.
LaDuke was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital in Lexington where he later died. His autopsy indicated his manner of death was a homicide.
LaDuke didn’t want police at his house
Police were called to the scene for a welfare check, made by LaDuke’s aunt and former legal guardian, Melissa Marks. According to interviews with police, LaDuke became agitated and made threats against himself after a dispute with his girlfriend. When officers arrived, they made multiple attempts and pleas with LaDuke to come out of the home and talk with officers, but he refused.
LaDuke can be heard on the body camera video telling an officer, “I don’t have anything to say,” and “I don’t have nothing to talk about.”
“I didn’t call y’all here,” LaDuke said. “There ain’t nothing to talk about.”
“It doesn’t matter who calls, if someone needs help we are going to try and help,” an officer responded to him. At that time, footage revealed the officer said LaDuke had no weapons in his hands.
Officers are seen and heard on camera outside of LaDuke’s home saying, “I say we just break that damn window out and pepperball his a--.”
Another cop responds, “that is what I am talking about. That s--- works.” Officers were instructed to be equipped with gas masks.
Sam Wade, public information officer with the Nicholasville Police Department, did not return multiple requests for comment as of Thursday afternoon.
Nearly two hours after police initially showed up, the response changed from a few uniformed officers to critical response officers armed with rifles surrounding the home. Police had blocked off the street.
In the body camera video, an officer calls for LaDuke to drop his weapon and repeatedly asks him to come out of his home to talk to officers. Eventually, a single shot rang out, which struck LaDuke in the chest. While this portion of the video was redacted, officers can be heard breaking glass and reporting they see blood in the hallway of LaDuke’s home. They said LaDuke was down with his feet showing, and a gun was on the floor by a back window.
Police repeatedly yelled at LaDuke, telling him not to move. One officer can be heard yelling “don’t make us shoot you again.”
Police eventually got his home with a battering ram. One officer yelled at him, “why did you do that? Why did you continually point guns at us? We did nothing but try to help you for hours. Why did you force them to do that?”
After the shooting, police began their investigation. They taped off the area, searched for bullet casings and spoke with other officers about the incident. Some officers tried to control a large crowd that had gathered.
Shooter was interviewed for 80 minutes, wasn’t indicted
Horton did a voluntary interview with KSP Sgt. Chris Marcum four days after the shooting, on Oct. 26, according to audio obtained through an open records request. Scott Crosbie, Horton’s representative, was present for the interview, which lasted about an hour and 20 minutes. Horton was questioned about his training, specifics of his weapons and what happened the day of the shooting.
He told the investigator he was carrying his department-issued Colt M4 Carbine AR and Glock Gen5 9mm pistol when he arrived on scene. He said he was not wearing any body worn camera gear at the time. He is one of nine officers on the department’s Special Response Team.
Horton told the investigator he arrived on the scene for a call of a barricaded, suicidal subject. He took position with others towards the back of the house. He said he witnessed LaDuke peer through the blinds, yell “shoot me” at officers, and close the blinds again.
Officers continued to tell LaDuke, “no one was in trouble, that no one was going to hurt him, that they just wanted him to cooperate, work together to get him the help he needs,” according to Horton.
He said no one successfully made “positive contact” with LaDuke.
Moments later, Horton said he noticed LaDuke had guns when he opened the blinds again. He called out to other officers, who responded by giving LaDuke verbal commands.
“The subject’s demeanor deteriorated,” Horton said in the interview. “He went from dancing in a taunting gesture to raising the firearms up and clicking them on the glass with officers in the line of fire.”
Horton indicated LaDuke pointed guns at the officers multiple times.
“In that instant i identified him as an imminent danger to fellow officers and myself and as an immediate threat,” Horton said. “I shot one round into the window to stop that threat.”
He told Marcum he did not shoot again because he knew LaDuke was down and no longer a threat to officers. Horton was immediately escorted from the scene and required to turn over his firearm.
Lt. Jason Fraddosio, who led the tactical team, told investigators during an interview he felt endangered by LaDuke’s actions: “He has now pointed both (guns) at me, stopped, and immediately I said, ‘Oh s---, he is, he is going to shoot me. Like he is going to f----- kill me.’”
Fraddosio said just as he went to squeeze his trigger, a shot rang out that he realized wasn’t his.
“I was so committed that I thought it was mine because the bullet went exactly where it was, and I was looking at this guy literally about to shoot me, both guns, both front, both visible, clear as day,” Fraddosio said.
“That is the most visible I seen the front of the guns to the point that I really thought, s---, I’m shot.”
Eleven officers were interviewed by KSP, according to documents obtained through open records. Those who witnessed the shooting all said LaDuke was taunting police, holding guns up multiple times and disregarding officers’ pleas to come out and talk with them.
Horton was not publicly identified as the shooter until Nov. 15, 2022. At that time, Kentucky State Police said Horton had been placed on administrative leave in accordance with the Nicholasville Police Department’s policies and procedures. It’s unclear if Horton returned to normal duties after the investigation ended.
“Despite repeated loud verbal commands by officers to drop the weapons, Mr. LaDuke pointed the firearms in the direction of the officers. Officer Joseph Horton recognized the immediate danger and fired his agency-issued firearm, striking Mr. LaDuke once,” state police said in a previous news release.
A Jessamine County grand jury declined to indict Horton on any criminal charges in August 2023. According to the grand jury report included in KSP’s investigation, Marcum was the only witness who testified to the grand jury. It is unclear if any body camera footage or bystander footage was shown to the jurors.
Horton returned to regular patrol duties two weeks after he the grand jury’s decision, according to Sam Wade, spokesperson for the Nicholasville Police Department.
“At this time, NPD has not yet received a copy of KSP’s final report and have not been privy to some of the information...,” Wade said in an email response to the Herald-Leader. Wade said he could not comment about officers’ demeanor or statements made by officers in the body camera footage.
Horton’s attorney, Scott Miller previously told the Herald-Leader the shooting was “tragic,” but said Horton’s actions followed nationally-recognized policing guidelines.