“Got A Warrant?” Asked The Dead Man

The Harnett County Sheriff’s office finally explained as much as they were going to explain for the time being:

According to authorities, “a confrontation with an individual resulted in a shooting.” The person involved in the confrontation was pronounced dead at the scene, while the deputy received minor injuries.

That’s code for “one of our guys shot and killed” some poor sucker. And they added this:

Harnett County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Kehagias was involved in the shooting incident, according to Maj. Jeff Huber. Kehagias has been employed as a deputy sheriff since July 2013 and is currently assigned to the patrol division.

That’s code for Kehagias was the killer.  But they didn’t have much to say about how Deputy “Involved” ended up in a “shooting incident.”  Clayton Carroll, the roommate of John Livingston, who might best be described as the person into whom a bullet was fired, was more forthcoming:

Carroll says sheriff’s deputies knocked on their door around 3:30 a.m.

Carroll said they were looking for someone that no longer lived there. When deputies asked Livingston if they could search the trailer, Livingston said “not without a search warrant,” according to Carroll.

Livingston then closed the door.

In the fantasy world of law, this is where the police, having no search warrant, would shrug and walk away, muttering to themselves that the law precludes their doing anything further without a warrant.  This is the fantasy world upon which courts base their decisions, craft the rules of engagement and pontificate about the high-minded professionalism of law enforcement that would never deliberately and flagrantly ignore law and do whatever the hell they please.

But Clayton Carroll wasn’t done yet with his story.

“The cop kicked in the door, got on top of him, started slinging him around beat him…” Carroll said.

Carroll said sheriff’s deputies then started spraying mace on Livingston and using the Taser, according to the roommate.

Witnesses said Livingston was not fighting back and was trying to get the Taser out of the deputy’s hands.

The incident eventually continued outside.

There is no detail of how Livingston went from inside his home to outside his home. Perhaps he said to Deputy Kehagias, “time out a second there, Deputy. Let’s just step outside and discuss this like gentlemen.” Except he was probably disinclined to chat at that moment, what with the Taser zapping him and all.

“He (Livingston) barely had the Taser in his hand but he had it where it was constantly going off and the officer I guess  that spoke to him rolled over there, says he got the Taser and shot him in this position,” Carroll said while on the deck outside the home demonstrating what happened.

Some will contend that by attempting to end the jolt of electricity flowing from the not-always-so-lethal Taser into his body, Livingston was asking for it.  After all, when a cop kicks in your door and uses painful, and possibly lethal, force on a guy, shouldn’t he just lie back and enjoy it?

Carroll said Livingston was shot six times, while another witness in the home, Bristol Edge, said Livingston was shot at least four times.

Livingston died a short time later. Carroll said Livingston did not have a weapon.

But Deputy Kehagias had more to be concerned about than constitutional technicalities.  There was the First Rule of Policing to contend with, and no way he was going to let this guy whose home he just violated get his mitts on a Taser and inflict pain on a deputy.  Forget everything that went wrong up to that point, and consider that no cop is going to suffer pain as long as he’s still got bullets in his gun.

Friends of John Livingstone explain that he was a great guy, a wonderful father of three children, loving, hard-working. So what? If he was a terrible human being whose life was dedicated to slacking, he still shouldn’t be dead.

Naturally, there is a “why” to this story, as it doesn’t appear that Kehagias was another deputy using his badge to vindicate some personal feud. Which can happen, but wasn’t the case here. Here, they were “investigating”:

An unknown number of sheriff’s deputies showed up at the trailer where John Livingston and Clayton Carroll lived at 3:30 a.m., looking for someone as part of an unspecified “assault investigation.” The cops were apparently told the person they were looking for no longer lived there. According to Carroll, they asked Livingston if they could enter the trailer. Not without a warrant, said Livingston, who then closed the door on the cops.

There is, of course, the view of law enforcement just doing their job, trying to find some bad dude, and asking Livingstone to demonstrate some civic virtue to letting the cops into his home, “just to be sure.”  After all, why would he refuse if he had nothing to hide?

But he had nothing to hide.  He was just a guy who did what the courts say he’s absolutely entitled to do, say “not without a warrant.”  Of course, the exercise of a constitutional right is supposed to happen without a penalty in theoretical jurisprudence, the stuff upon which rules are based.

This is much like the courts’ vision of Terry stops, where a person for whom no reasonable suspicion exists is entitled to say nothing, turn his back on the police and walk away unscathed.  Try it. See how that works for you.

But the protection of the home from entry by police is usually spoken in hushed terms by judges, because it’s sacred. The sanctity of the home is the most protected, most respected aspect of Fourth Amendment protection.

Unless some cop decides to kick in the door anyway. Then you end up dead.  There is no rule of law that explains this eventuality, but then, there doesn’t need to be because the law says this just can’t happen.

25 thoughts on ““Got A Warrant?” Asked The Dead Man

  1. Keith Lynch

    It’s long been the rule that when a US Navy
    ship sinks, its captain is never given
    another ship to command, ever, regardless of
    circumstances. Unfair? Perhaps, but the
    Navy really doesn’t want to lose its ships.
    Anyone who doesn’t like the rule doesn’t
    have to become a naval officer.

    I suggest a similar rule for police. If a
    cop kills someone, he loses his job and can
    never be a cop again, regardless of the
    circumstances of the killing. And if the
    victim was unarmed, innocent, or a juvenile,
    the cop also loses his pension and his
    private right to possess a firearm, since
    innocent lives are worth more than pensions.
    Any cop doesn’t like this rule can find
    another line of work.

    1. SHG Post author

      And if you thought just a little bit about your rule, you would probably see why it’s a horrible idea. Maybe not.

      1. Catherine

        SHG, why do you think lost of job for officer involved death would be a bad idea? It sounds reasonable to me. If an officer’s life is truly endangered, he or she is not going to worry about job retention or the pension. On the other hand if a LEO thinks he can get away with excessive force or murder by claiming that it was an accident or suicide or he feared for his life, he is already damaged goods and not the right person for the job. LEO’s are expensive to recruit, to train, and to develop, we need policies and procedures to reward the good officers and get rid of the rest. Yes an automatic termination would cost us some of the good ones, but it would avoid rewarding the bad ones. Even more important, it would label death of civilians as a bad bad outcome instead of as acceptable collateral damage.

    2. dm

      Perhaps the new New York State model regarding the police shootings of unarmed “suspects” offers some hope. Leaving it up to local prosecutors to prosecute the same officers s/he has to work with each and every day does not seem to be working too well.
      In the case discussed by SHG in this article, it may be that the civil rights violations (if no warrant existed) rise to the level such that a federal civil rights prosecution against the officer would be appropriate (but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting).

        1. dm

          Okay, not a great example. I guess if I were king I’d set up an independent/special prosecutor’s office that has as its sole mission to prosecute police misconduct. It would have statewide jurisdiction. Obviously, this is pie in the sky with a thousand reasons why it won’t happen/work. But, dreams … .

  2. John Barleycorn

    P.S. It is Tuesday correct? No one, not even the _________________ would be so bold as to snatch a day would they?

        1. John Barleycorn

          Grey never goes out of style and always catches the light just right.

          Pinstripes come and go as long as one makes bail.

        2. Wrongway

          Really ! ? ? … that’s you ??!

          Dude, get some sleep, you look like shit…

          oh that’s the resolution of my graphics card.. sorry…

          (you’re ugly tho…)

    1. SHG Post author

      And nobody but you and I know what you’ve put me through this morning. You are a mean bully and have unvalued my safe space.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Could be you don’t read as fast as you write…And if that is the case, which I doubt, you’re on your own.

        Other than that, I owe you one. You are certainly not going to get any of that time back.

        I apologize but I hope you know I made damn good and sure not throw any unripened tomatoes other than those dozen or so that got mixed in with that 2nd, 3rd, and 4th bushel of tantrum.

        Thanks for allowing a little bit of the tailgating party into your stadium though. It’s a party even though it really isn’t. You deserve much more credit for that than most could ever appreciate.

        Going deep 70’s sitcom…. will endeavor to break on through at a much later date after concise consents to cogent’s advances affirmatively.

        Aggregation or not.

        Even if the kids don’t like it.

      2. Wrongway

        Interesting, you used the term ‘safe space’ after writing this piece about a guy in his house, who, not only knew the law, acted accordingly & then got dead..

        Talk about ‘Gun Control’, sheesh! .. It’s getting like the Wild Wild West out there.. but who’s creating this atmosphere ??! ..

        (sorry, ‘FOCUS’)..

        My guess is gonna be they’ll claim #1exigent circumstances, #2, feared for their lives after the door was kicked in, #3, didn’t comply/actively resisting..(grabbing the taser)..

        And they’ll get away with it..

  3. Paul L.

    “The Harnett County Sheriff’s office finally explained as much as they were going to explain for the time being:’
    I wonder how the police would react to this reply?
    I want to be as silent as a Police department that had a officer shoot a unarmed person who committed no crime.

  4. Mort

    So, here comes the question from the non-lawyer…

    Because no probable cause existed for a warrant, and no exigent circumstances existed to allow for a warrantless entry, and because consent was clearly not given, would this mean that the cop is likely unable to enjoy the protection of qualified immunity?

    1. pavlaugh

      I could see an argument that a reasonable officer would not have known that it was clearly established law that exigent circumstances for a warrantless entry do not exist when there is a report of an assault on the premises. Might be a losing argument, but an argument nonetheless.

  5. Jason Peterson

    “Witnesses said Livingston was not fighting back and was trying to get the Taser out of the deputy’s hands.”

    Even if he was fighting back. Would that be a crime?
    Does North Carolina have some unique law that allows a person to start a fight and then claim “self defense”, if their victim fights back?

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