You won’t believe this story.
Joel Naselroad and his parents live just outside Winchester Kentucky on a pretty, wooded 5-acre lot. There’s a pond with tame fish (they all come up when Joel whistles for them), a huge vegetable garden, several laying hens and a guinea, and a separate garden with an exotic array of peppers growing wild and hot. Among them is a Mexican pepper plant he’s nurtured for 8 years.
Further back on the lot were 3 Cannabis plants Joel grew for his own use. Like most Americans, he’s been on several different pharmaceuticals over the years. And like more and more Americans, he’s found that Cannabis replaces almost all of them with none of the addiction problems or dangerous side effects. In fact, one of his doctor’s recommended he use it.
The Naselroads are quiet neighbors. Joel repairs computers, bicycles, lawn equipment and helps with gardening for their friends. As you’ll see in the letters of support at the bottom of this article, the family is very well regarded, if not loved.
Last winter, a neighbor told the family she’d seen a mountain lion on their property. Another neighbor saw a whole family of cats in his front yard. Doug Naselroad (Joel’s dad) found a trail cam at a yard sale and bought it. They installed it on a tree at the back of the property to watch for the cat.
A few months later, on October 8th, Joel went to get the disk out of the trail cam. He took his pistol with him as was his habit in case he met up with the cat. When Joel and his mom, Jeannie, played back the video, what they saw was not a cat, but a man in camo pants, a black long-sleeved shirt, a cross-bow and a face mask sneaking along the back of their property! They were in shock. Who was that and why was he disguised, armed with a crossbow, on their side of the fence?
Later that morning, Joel prepared to head back up to the trail cam. As he was walking to the back door to leave, there was a knock on the front door. Jeannie answered the door. Joel did not see who it was or hear the conversation and continued out the back.
What Joel didn’t know is that the Clark County Sheriff’s office had gotten a call from Betsy Spengler, the next door neighbor, who reported that there was Cannabis growing on the Naselroad property. (It turns out the tresspasser was Betsy’s daughter’s boyfriend, Eric Miller.)
UPDATE 9pm: Eric Miller just called and threatened to sue the KyFreePress.com unless his picture is removed. Does anyone else find it ironic that a trespassing tattletale would demand his right to privacy be honored? Besides, it’s part of the public record and he did that to himself.
KSP Detective Craycraft spoke to Betsy and decided to head to the Naselroad’s for a “Knock and Talk.” A Knock and Talk is a no-search-warrant visit, just a friendly request to search your property. If you say no, they leave.
Craycraft sent out a mass text and got 2 other KSP* officers to join him: Detectives Mabry and Puckett. He asked for a Clark County Sheriff deputy to ride along and Detective Gurley joined the now 4-man Knock and Talk team.
Craycraft, Mabry and Puckett are plain clothes undercover: 2 in jeans, Puckett in camo. In size, shape and camo, Puckett bears a passing resemblance to the intruder on the tape. Gurley is the only uniformed officer.
There are conflicting details in the initial interviews with the cops about how exactly this went down. For the sake of brevity, here’s what happened:
- Gurley and Craycraft knock on the front door, Puckett and Mabry hang back. According to Gurley’s initial report, Puckett and Mabry are spreading out to his left, advancing a bit into the property.
- Jeannie answers the door, Craycraft (in plain clothes) does the talking. Gurley (only uniformed officer) never sees Joel, Joel never sees Gurley.
- As Jeannie answers the door, Joel continues out the back.
- Craycraft sees a man walk out his own back door and yells, “Out the back, out the back!”
- Craycraft and Mabry head into the backyard, Mabry circling around the garage. Puckett is close behind Craycraft, Gurley remains at the front door.
- Joel hears commotion, turns to see a strange man (Craycraft) advancing into his backyard with his weapon drawn and aimed at Joel. Joel draws his weapon and tries to rack a bullet into the chamber. The gun jams (so no bullet in the chamber). Joel has not yet seen Mabry coming around the garage.
- Craycraft yells, “Gun!” In a defensive move, Joel lifts his jammed gun to the low ready position in Craycraft’s direction, then lowers it as he hears Mabry (off to his side) yell.
- Confusion ensues. By all accounts, the entire episode, from first knock at the door to gunshot, takes seconds. Neither Joel nor his mom heard the word “police” uttered until, just before firing, Mabry yelled, “Drop it, police!”
- Immediately after this warning, with no time for Joel to drop the gun, Mabry shoots Joel, narrowly missing his heart, nicking an artery, hitting his spine, dislocating and shattering bone as it enters and exits.
- Joel falls, Mabry handcuffs him, someone gets a first aid kit and calls for help, a helicopter airlifts Joel to UK.
- While Joel is laying in his backyard bleeding profusely, Jeannie is not allowed to go to him. In fact, after Joel’s helicopter leaves the ground, Jeannie — who is understandably in shock at this point — is convinced to allow a search. Then she is detained at her home and grilled for just over an hour while her son’s life is in jeopardy! This interview is recorded without Jeannie’s knowledge.
- Meanwhile, Doug has driven in from his job in Hindman but is not allowed to go home. He is detained up the road from his home while Jeannie is being interrogated.
- In the hospital, a Detective Keaton insists on interviewing Joel while he is being treated and been given painkillers. Keaton records Joel but does not tell him so. Keaton leaves, then returns and Mirandizes Joel, after he’s questioned him.
- Doug and Jeannie go to the hospital to see their son. They are allowed to see him for slightly less then 30 minutes. Then the detectives say they are charging Joel with felonies and order them out. Joel is put under 24 hour police guard at taxpayer expense. At their attorney’s insistence, Jeannie is finally allowed to see Joel one more time during the rest of his 9-day hospital stay.
- The incident happened at 11 am. After leaving the hospital, Joel’s parents are not allowed to return home till 8:30 pm that night. When they get in the house, it has been thoroughly searched and they discover many personal items missing.
- Joel is charged with 3 felonies: wanton endangerment of three cops, as well as 3 misdemeanors: cultivation of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
- When Joel is released from the hospital, still bandaged, in a wheelchair, leaking bodily fluids and very sick, the cops put him in jail where he remains for 24 hours until his defense attorney, Tucker Richardson, gets him out. The jail did not want him there, he was too sick. The doctors did not want to release him from the hospital, but the police insisted.
- Btw, in jail, you are not allowed medication stronger than aspirin, even prescribed.
June 23rd, Joel’s jury trial finally began at the Clark County Courthouse with Judge Clouse presiding. On June 25th, the jury acquitted Joel of all felonies and one misdemeanor, convicting him only on possession of Cannabis and the pipe.
The 3 Cannabis plants were quite small and ultimately yielded only a few grams of leaf. Apparently the jury got a kick out of the D.A. showing the Cannabis evidence: a tiny bit of plant in the bottom of a great big shopping bag.
Sentencing was held last Thursday, July 10th. Before Judge Clouse handed down the sentence, D.A. Charles Johnson offered a plea deal: if Joel will stay off pain medication, give up his firearms for life and agree not to sue the state over the officers’ mishandling of the Knock and Talk and subsequent shooting, Joel can get probation.
Joel refused. He is still in quite a bit of pain, and taking prescription pain meds. And he is certainly owed his day in court!
Besides, Joel is a 33 year old with no prior record. Plus, there is solid intel that, had the jury been allowed to sentence, Joel would have gotten only a fine. Judges generally take this into consideration. Attorney Richardson and the Naselroads had been assured that Joel would get a fair hearing. Judge Clouse himself assured everyone at the hearing that his General Policy is to consider probation first. (As is the law, by the way.)
However, Clouse sentenced Joel to 120 days in the Clark County jail.
Everyone in the room was stunned at this unexpected turn of events. They were expecting a reasonable fine and possibly (even likely) probation, not jail! Hasn’t Joel suffered enough? Isn’t he still suffering from being shot and almost killed on his own property? Is Joel a criminal? Would the community be in danger were he allowed to return home?
Won’t this give cops unfettered access to Joel?
In defending his decision to sentence Joel to jail time — against attorney Richardson’s sound and vociferous argument — Clouse stated that he “believes Joel has mental issues” and that he needs to be in jail. Clouse said that if Joel gets a mental health treatment plan together, he might allow Joel “shock probation” which is an early release after 30 days.
NOTE: After the hearing, the family met briefly and consulted with those more familiar with how this works. Unfortunately, Comp Care may not visit the jail. There is no way to get a treatment plan together.
Joel was taken immediately to the Clark County jail where he’ll be until October 10th, given the treatment plan Catch 22. Joel is not allowed pain medications other than aspirin, his prescriptions sit at home.
Everyone who knows Joel, who pays taxes and finances the “justice” system, is appalled by what has happened here. They are heartsick that a gentle young man who has never hurt anyone is suffering for no reason anyone can see.
This incident was instigated over a single phone call from a neighbor stating that a trespasser saw Cannabis growing on the Naselroad property. A few questions come to mind:
- If probation was good enough were Joel to give up the idea of suing the police, if “mental issues” weren’t going to get in the way of probation then, why isn’t probation good enough when he is still planning to sue?
- Is a spontaneous intimidation visit by four armed police officers over what is by all accounts a tiny amount of Cannabis the best way to thwart a user? Is this how officers are trained to respond to a single phone call? Can any readers come up with a safer strategy to deal with this type of tip?
- Is this type of police action the best use of resources?
- Shouldn’t officers who have no need to be in disguise be required to wear clearly identifying clothing? Not just a badge on a belt but a big black tshirt with “POLICE” emblazoned across the front and back?
- Didn’t those officers have anything better to do?
- Is there any justification for chasing a man down on his own property and shooting him when he has otherwise posed no threat to anyone?
- Mabry shot and killed a man in 2006. Just the man and Mabry in the room (Mabry chased him down, too.) It would be interesting to know how many other KSP officers have shot more than one citizen and under what circumstances.
- Who is being protected here?
- In KY, possessing up to 5 plants and 8 ounces of Cannabis is a misdemeanor. If Cannabis were dangerous, would this be true?
Letters for Joel
Following are the letters of support Judge Clouse received prior to sentencing. To see a letter larger, click on it. Last names and addresses were blacked out for privacy:
I am writing this letter in defense of Joel Naselroad.
We live in an interesting time in history when on one side of this country you can purchase marijuana legally and on the other side a man was shot for owning 2 or 3 plants.
I have known the Naselroad family my whole adult life. They are all fine hardworking people. Joel has never been in trouble in his life. He is a very kind, sensitive, creative person.
I believe that he has been punished enough for possessing some pot and related items. Additional sentencing would be cruel and unjust.
Thank you for considering my request.
Catherine (a friend and neighbor)
How You Can Help
Please share this story with your friends and get the word out about Joel. Thank you. If you’d like to write a letter to the Judge, please click here to send to Joel’s attorney, Tucker Richardson.
*Craycraft is employed by the Clark County Sheriff’s department and has been assigned to a KSP special task force. It is as a KSP officer that he is responding to this call. Similarly, Puckett is employed by the Paris Police Department and is a KSP special task force officer. Mabry is employed by the KSP.
DISCLAIMER: Sally Oh is Tucker Richardson’s much younger, smarter and better looking sibling. Winchester is our hometown. When I heard about this story, I decided to investigate and spoke with Tucker. (If you follow KyFreePress.com, you’ll see this story would been reported, bro or no.) Tucker and I chatted briefly, but both decided that, in order for the article to be as accurate as possible and to keep an arm’s length pov, the details had to come from eye witness interviews and the public record, which they did.