Kentucky sheriff’s deputy Nick Hibbs had been on the job less than a month when he shot and killed a man who had fallen asleep or passed out in the driver’s seat of a car parked on a quiet road on the outskirts of Louisville late one night last year.
The Bullitt County sheriff’s deputy claimed the man in the car tried to run him over, making him fear for his life.
But body camera video that surfaced earlier this month shows Eric Kessler was not only driving away from Hibbs but had already passed him when the deputy fired several rounds as we was driving away.
One bullet struck Kessler in the back of the head, another in his spine.
“He tried to run over me,” Hibbs claimed to dispatch in the moments after the shooting, according to his body camera footage.
Kessler was a 20-year-old father of a toddler when he was killed. His family has filed a lawsuit on behalf of his daughter, who just turned three years old. Hibbs remains employed by the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office more than a year after the shooting.
The incident took place on January 31, 2021 after a citizen called the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office to report an abandoned car parked in the middle of the road.
Bullitt County sheriff’s deputy Maurice Raque III responded to the call and discovered Kessler in the front seat of the car with his eyes closed and his arms at his side. He was holding a phone and there was no evidence of drug or alcohol use nor did he spot any weapons in the car.
The deputy spent almost 13 minutes knocking on the window but Kessler would not wake up. At one point, he called for paramedics about an “unconscious male in the car” and continued knocking on the window, never once indicating that Kessler was dangerous and threatening.
But deputy Hibbs arrived on the scene before paramedics along with two other deputies, Eric Burdon and Terry Compton, who began escalating the situation.
“I think that might be Eric Kessler,” Hibbs said, pointing his flashlight through the window. “He carries a gun and shit.”
Raque tells him he does not know if it is Kessler and doesn’t seem very concerned but Hibbs continues to insinuate that Kessler is dangerous.
“Is that Kessler, I’m pretty sure that’s Kessler,” Hibbs continues. “He carries a gun and shit so just watch it.”
The deputies eventually break the passenger window which is when Kessler stirs awake, finding himself surrounded by men with guns and flashlights ordering him to put the car in park.
The video shows he starts the car, then backs up, striking a deputy’s car behind him before veering left to avoid striking the deputy’s car in front of him. Hibbs is standing to the right of the car and not in its direct path.
Hibbs fires eight times as the car drives away from him. The car ends up plowing through a fence and barreling over a creek before crashing against some trees. The video shows Raque falling into the creek as he is running towards the car in the moments after the shooting.
None of the other deputies fired their guns but the video shows Burdon chasing after the car, trying to strike it with a sledgehammer.
“I threw my hammer at the vehicle and then heard gun shots. I moved away from the vehicle and saw the vehicle go around Deputy Compton’s cruiser,” Burdon wrote in his report following the shooting, according to the lawsuit.
Bullitt County Sheriff Walt Sholar told local media the incident is being “investigated” by Kentucky State Police which issued a press release the day after the shooting stating the following:
The preliminary investigation revealed the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office received a call of a vehicle parked in the middle of the roadway around the 1600 block of Cedar Creek Road near the Jefferson County line. After deputies arrived, they located a passenger car parked in the roadway. At some point while deputies tried to get the suspect to exit the vehicle, the suspect took off, striking a deputy’s cruiser and nearly striking deputies on foot. It was at that time a deputy fired his weapon striking the suspect.
Hibbs began working as a deputy for the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office on January 1, 2021 after resigning from the Pioneer Police Department on December 21, 2020.
According to the lawsuit, Hibbs had already worked for the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office from July 2013 to November 2014 which was when he was either terminated or asked to resign while he was under investigation for reasons that are not stated.
He was hired by the Pioneer Police Department in August 2016 despite warning signs, the lawsuit states:
In September of 2015, during the preliminary screening of Defendant Hibbs’ by the Pioneer Village Police Department which utilizes information derived from the LESI Personal History Questionnaire and Psychometric testing results to evaluate a prospective applicants suitability for a job in law enforcement, noted Deputy Hibbs “may be sensitive to criticism and/or display unusually strong needs for status and recognition.”
In a June 7, 2016, applicant interview questionnaire with Pioneer Village Police Department; when asked to explain your feelings toward the use of deadly force, Deputy Hibbs responded that if it’s to protect himself or others it is “no problem.”
Deputy Hibbs started school at the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice on or about November 14, 2016, and left on or about May 19, 2017.
Defendant Hibbs was hired by the Pioneer Village Police Department on August 1, 2016, and left December 31, 2020.
While employed by the Pioneer Village Police Department and on August 12, 20217, a female citizen complained that Defendant Hibbs had no reason to pull her over and was rude when interacting with her.
While employed at Pioneer Village Police Department and on January 9/10 2018 Officer Hibbs assisted Shepherdsville PD in a pursuit averaging 55-80 mph. Indiana State Police deployed a stop stick disabling the vehicle.
While employed at Pioneer Village Police Department and on August 11, 2019 another citizen filed a complaint against Hibbs stating he was rude and cussed him out. Hibbs was given a verbal warning and told to “act in a more professional and courteous manner.”
While employed at Pioneer Village Police Department and on January 08, 2020, Hibbs was told if he did not follow what was ordered per Pioneer Village Chief of Police, he would be subject to disciplinary action.
Deputy Hibbs is an avid hunter.
Deputy Hibbs has a record of being careless such as being intoxicated in public places.
The lawsuit which you can read here accuses the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office and the deputies of excessive force, improper training and violating the state public records law for not releasing the body camera footage in a timely manner among other things.
“It could have ended peacefully,” Zack McKee, the attorney representing Kessler’s family, told local media.
“The Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office has policies and procedures and the policies and procedures is that you cannot use deadly force in a situation like that.”
Watch the video below.