In August, a grand jury decided not to indict officers in the deadly shooting of Desman LaDuke.
Dozens of people gathered in a park to honor LaDuke’s life with a lantern release as the fresh wound still haunts the family of LaDuke.
“Today has been nothing but like a flash of everything that happened that day,” Kahnan Laslie, LaDuke’s cousin, said. “Roller coaster of emotions and looking at my kids and knowing that they will not see their uncle again, and just the wrong that is done to our family and the emotional hurt that has caused for generations.”
In October 2022, LaDuke’s family called the police for help because he was struggling with suicidal thoughts. Officers surrounded the house and tried to talk LaDuke into putting down his gun. But they say he aimed it at police, which led to him being shot. He died later at a hospital.
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“It’s just constantly watching the clock and thinking back to what was happening at this time,” Melissa Marks, LaDuke’s aunt, said. “It’s just really hard to think that this is just the first year that we have to live without him, and I hope and pray that all this stuff doesn’t happen in vain, that his story can change so much more than what it has already. I hope he’s not forgotten. I hope he knows how much he’s loved and how grateful we are.”
Family and friends gathered at Clinton Hayden Park to release lanterns at 5:55 p.m., the exact time LaDuke died.
“It’s just like a piece of him just being carried on, not just by me but by everyone else,” Marks said. “It just lets me know how much he was loved and supported and missed.”
Officers were not indicted in August for the shooting, and the family is unsatisfied with the way the situation was handled.
“Personally, I definitely want to see the officer specifically held accountable,” Laslie said. “There was only one shot fired, that guy, so he needs to be held accountable for what he did.”
“Whoever made the call for him to pull the trigger needs to be held accountable,” Kelly Prewitt, a family friend of LaDuke, said. “That officer did not make that call on his own; somebody told him to do that, and I’d like to know who.”
The family hopes the vigil sheds light on the need for officers to be better trained in how to handle a mental health crisis.
Each lantern was written with messages to show how much LaDuke meant to his family and friends.