Judge: Fatal shooting in self-defense

Octavious Ludwig, 23, smiles after Judge John Atkins dismissed a murder charge against him for the April 20, 2017, fatal shooting of Roshanda Hayden. Atkins ruled Ludwig acted in self-defense after being shot first by Hayden.

MELISSA PETTITT | FOR THE EAGLE POST

A judge ruled a Georgia man’s use of deadly force was lawful and in self-defense when he fatally shot a woman at an Oak Grove hotel and a murder charge against the man was dismissed Monday in Christian Circuit Court.

Octavious D. Ludwig, 23, Dalton, Georgia, was emotional as Judge John Atkins dismissed the murder charge against him for the April 20 death of 22-year-old Roshanda Hayden, Millington, Tennessee, at the Days Inn on Auburn Street in Oak Grove.

Ludwig’s attorney, Brandi Jones, of the Department of Public Advocacy, argued from the beginning of the case that her client shot Hayden in self-defense only after she shot him. Jones said Kentucky’s stand your ground laws were clear that Ludwig had no duty to retreat.

“The law is clear as day,” Jones said. “A person does not have a duty to retreat in Kentucky.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Lynn Pryor argued the Oak Grove Police Department arrested Ludwig not only because he failed to retreat, but that he continued toward Hayden and made no attempts to de-escalate the situation, pulling out his own gun. She also added that the witness to the shooting, Ashley B. Cantrell, Chatsworth, Georgia, turned her head and did not see who pulled the trigger first.

“I believe that (Detective James Carter) had probable cause based on his investigation,” Pryor said. “However, I do understand that there is some proof that counters that.”

Jones disagreed there was any probable cause for Ludwig to be charged with murder.

“There’s not been one single shred of evidence to suggest that anything other than Mr. Ludwig fired in self-defense,” Jones said. “The only fair thing to do … is to determine there was not probable cause (to charge Ludwig with murder).” Oak Grove police detective James Carter even testified Nov. 6 that it was his opinion Hayden shot Ludwig first, but he could not state it as a fact.

Based on testimony from officers and the evidence presented, it’s believed Hayden pulled a gun on Ludwig then shot him in the chest during a struggle, muffling the first gunshot sound a person in the room next door heard. After being shot, Ludwig pulled his gun from the bed and shot Hayden, who was still holding a gun on him. Hayden then fired a second shot from her gun in recoil from being shot. That shot went through the window of the hotel room.

After the shooting, Ludwig and Cantrell fled the room because they were scared, according to Cantrell’s Nov. 6 testimony. She said Ludwig was not allowed to have a gun, so the two of them disposed of the gun and magazine before Ludwig eventually collapsed behind the hotel near the dumpster.

Atkins, having already reviewed all the evidence, body camera footage and interviews, said his duty was to determine whether there was a “substantial basis to believe the defendant’s use of force was unlawful.”

He found Ludwig was entitled to the immunity entitled by Kentucky law and that he acted in self-defense.

“There is no substantial basis to so believe and from the evidence that’s been presented to me, the evidence in the record, the defendant’s use of deadly force was lawful,” Atkins said in his ruling.

Ludwig did plead guilty to tampering with physical evidence for attempting to dispose of the gun after the shooting. The plea agreement was for a three-year sentence and the commonwealth indicated they would oppose probation; however, the defense will argue for it.

Atkins accepted the plea and will hand down a final sentence on the tampering charge April 10. In the meantime, he ordered Ludwig released pending final sentencing. Ludwig has been in Christian County Jail on the murder and tampering charge nearly seven months, since his arrest in late April.

Cantrell was also sentenced on her guilty plea to tampering with physical evidence. She received a three-year sentence, which was probated for two years. She still faces misdemeanor charges from a Nov. 6 arrest before she was scheduled to testify at last week’s immunity hearing.

She’s charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, third-degree possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. She will remain in jail at least until her district court appearance Wednesday.

“This ought to be a serious wake-up call for you,” Atkins told Cantrell before granting probation on the tampering charge.

Brief head: Defense pleased with outcome

After the hearing, Jones said she felt good about the ruling, though was frustrated it took nearly seven months for the outcome.

“This is something we’ve been fighting since Octavious was in the district court level,” Jones said. “It was something that we argued after his preliminary hearing.”

Atkins said this was the first immunity hearing in his court, and the first time in recent history he could remember an immunity motion being granted. In February 2016, an immunity motion in a fatal crash was denied by Judge Andrew Self in the case against Travis Orten, who was ultimately convicted of two counts of reckless homicide.

Jones mentioned the rarity of an immunity hearing being upheld, but said she felt the facts of this case strongly supported the hearing and the ruling to uphold it. She again said Ludwig should never have been charged with murder by Oak Grove police and was happy Kentucky law was upheld.

“I feel really confident that this is what the stand your ground laws are all about,” she said. “In Kentucky, there is no duty to retreat and this just reaffirmed that.”

Ludwig was all smiles after the verdict and Jones said he was happy with the outcome after seven months of being behind bars.

“He’s just happy,” she said. “He’s grateful that the courts have seen his actions were lawful and that he had no other option, having been shot in the chest and fighting a collapsed lung.”

Before releasing Ludwig, however, Atkins cautioned him he must abide by all the rules of probation on the tampering charge and check in weekly. He urged Ludwig not to mess up the rare opportunity he was given.

“This is about the most significant break I’ve ever given anybody in this courtroom,” Atkins said.

Reach MELISSA PETTITT at 270-887-3226 or mpettitt@kentuckynewera.com.

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