House 1

Chris Gradoville, Creighton’s director of baseball operations, was killed Sept. 30 outside this home near 61st and Pratt Streets.

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Family and friends gather to remember Chris Gradoville

OMAHA — A man chased and shot 25 times at the repairman he knew was coming to his house to replace a toilet, an Omaha police detective testified Friday. 

The time from when Christopher Gradoville arrived at the house near 61st and Pratt streets to when he lay dead in the yard was just 66 seconds, Detective Aneta Nelson said at a preliminary hearing for the accused gunman, Ladell Thornton. 

Ladell Thornton

Thornton

Thornton, 43, has been charged with first-degree murder and two firearms charges in the Sept. 30 killing of Gradoville, who also worked as a baseball administrator at Creighton University. The 37-year-old was found with more than 10 gunshot wounds to his head and neck and about 10 more to his chest and arms. 

Thornton has also been charged with a separate felony firearm count in connection with an April shootout that authorities say involved the same 9 mm gun that was used to kill Gradoville. 

Thornton had leased the 830-square-foot house on Sept. 27 for $1,200 per month from Marc Lewis, who owned the home.

After the agreement was signed, Thornton texted Lewis to inform him that there was a problem with the toilet, Nelson testified. Lewis responded that he would send someone out to fix it.

Christopher Gradoville

Gradoville

Gradoville went to the home on Sept. 28 to look at the broken toilet while Thornton was home. Nelson said there was no indication that Thornton would be mad at Gradoville for any reason.

Lewis texted again Sept. 29, asking Thornton whether the maintenance man could arrive at 8 a.m. the next day to install a new toilet.

According to cellphone records, Gradoville didn't call or text Thornton that morning to say he had arrived. 

Gradoville parked on Pratt Street. A neighbor's doorbell security camera shows him carrying a large cardboard box with a toilet inside, walking toward the home at 7:53 a.m. 

Gradoville left the view of the doorbell camera, and about 10 seconds later, Nelson said, the first shots can be heard — eventually totaling 25 shots.

Nelson said that based on the audio from the doorbell camera, she thought that the first shot was fired near the front door. Gradoville ran around the home, and Thornton followed, continuing to fire until Gradoville collapsed in the front yard. 

When police officers arrived after multiple people called 911, the officers ordered whoever was inside the home to come out. Thornton came out with his hands up and was taken into custody. 

Officials found a loaded 9 mm gun in the main bedroom of the house, along with two loaded 24-round magazines and an empty 24-round magazine. Only a lawn chair was set up inside the living room, positioned so a person could look out the main window toward Pratt Street, Nelson said. No other furniture was found in the home.

Twenty-one shell casings were collected from around the outside of the home. Thornton was the only person inside the house when officers arrived, Nelson said.

In a jail phone call later, Nelson testified, Thornton told someone that "he might have thrown his life away."

Authorities conducted ballistic tests on the gun and determined that shell casings recovered from an April 19 shootout were also tied to that gun. 

In that case, officers went to 26th and Bristol streets after a report of gunfire there. They found 22 spent shell casings in the street. A witness said a silver Chevy Malibu that had been hit by six bullets had been abandoned near 19th and Pinkney streets. Authorities found two more shell casings on the windshield of that car, which belonged to Thornton.  

Jeffrey Wasmund, another Omaha police detective, testified that officers spoke to Thornton on the phone after his mother arrived to retrieve the car. Thornton told them that he was alone in the Malibu, driving east on Bristol Street, when he saw a silver Lexus with paper license plates speeding behind him. Thornton said people in the Lexus shot at him multiple times.

Ballistic testing determined that bullets had been fired from two different 9 mm guns. 

Wasmund said he talked to Thornton on the phone the next day and asked whether Thornton had fired at the people who shot at him. Thornton said he hadn't. 

Four days after Gradoville was killed, Wasmund received a report from a forensic technician that linked the 9 mm gun found at the house at 61st and Pratt to the April case. 

Thornton had been convicted on a possession of a controlled substance charge in 2005, making it illegal for him to carry a firearm. 

This article originally ran on omaha.com.

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