When Rights Become “Incidental” To Death (Update)

Some people find it unbearable to read what “the other side” has to say about the issues we find clear and substantial.  After all, they’re WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!! But neither hiding from contrary views, nor allowing oneself to indulge in outrage does much to help.  Reading, understanding and addressing views that are “wrong” is far more productive.

The murder of John Livingston was discussed here and at Fault Lines, by Josh Kendrick.  Within this story of a guy killed for doing what the courts tell us he’s entitled to do are two significant problems:

Even more unfortunately, Livingston’s killer was a cop. So now we have a problem. Livingston doesn’t, because he is dead. It will remain to be seen if the killer cop has a problem, because we don’t like to prosecute cops, even for killing innocent civilians.

But in this case, North Carolina law is on the side of the angels. Though its little comfort to Livingston, North Carolina statute § 14-51.2(c)(4) says a North Carolinian can use force against a law enforcement officer who is attempting to enter a home illegally.

The right to refuse to allow a cop without a warrant to force his way into your home is one problem. The right to use force against any person trying to force his way into your home, even if he’s a cop acting unlawfully, is another. But as Josh notes, it doesn’t matter to Livingston because he’s dead.

Josh’s post caught a link from a website called “Glock Talk.” It may sound like an SNL skit, but it appears to be a gun aficionado site that is populated by, or at minimum deeply supportive of, law enforcement. What makes me say this?  The trigger warning:


This is a matter of perspective. If what this means is that it doesn’t apologize for cop murdering a guy, then it’s true.  On the other hand, if, by “LE-friendly,” it extols the virtues of police acting according to law, then it doesn’t get more LE-friendly. See how that works?

But a comment there struck a chord on the twitters and evoked a great deal of anger.  It should have, but that’s not good enough.


The author, though pseudonymous, doesn’t appear to a cop, but rather someone associated with Glockmeister, a gun shop focused on Glocks and support for the Second Amendment.  No, there is nothing to indicate support for the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth or Eighth. Some of us support the entire Bill of Rights. Some support only the ones that bolster their enlightened self-interest.

The comment is notably first for its initial reliance on the First Rule of Policing.

From the article: “…the police can’t stand it when someone refuses to comply with their instructions.”

That may be a fair statement, but I think a lot of people fail to take officer safety into account. Slamming the door in a deputy’s face upon learning he has no warrant is just stupid. Resisting arrest is stupid.

Notably, it takes the propriety of the First Rule as a given, that the failure to take “officer safety into account” is a failing on the part of people, rather than a failing on the part of police to be psychologically sound enough to distinguish officer safety from fury, cowardice and violent reaction.

The characterization of “slamming the door” reflects this misguided focus. The source article described Livingston as “closing the door.” Nowhere does it say “slamming.” If something is to be described as “just stupid,” it’s falsifying facts to suit one’s conclusion. While hardly unusual, it reveals the mindset.

But even assuming, arguendo, that the door was slammed, does that raise an issue of “officer safety”?  Hardly. Slamming a door in the face of a cop without a warrant won’t stop him from going home for dinner that night. What it will do, however, is challenge his authority to make illegal demands and enjoy obsequious compliance.

And then came a very pragmatic point. That the cop has a gun.

Yeah. You CAN get killed for “knowing yr rights” if it involves escalating with somebody who’s trained to take you down, if necessary.

The assertion of a right to protect the sanctity of one’s home morphs into “escalating,” another way of saying that people should comply with police no matter what, because “you CAN get killed for ‘knowing yr rights.'”  Well, that’s certainly true. You “CAN.” You “CAN” get killed by anyone who has a gun, because they have the means.

Of course, that sentence applies with equal force to someone getting killed for exercising his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as well as his Fourth Amendment right to keep a cop out of his home when he doesn’t have a warrant. This is why respecting the whole Bill of Rights matters, including those rights that aren’t your personal favs.

But even that isn’t the line that gave rise to the greatest outrage.  Rather, this caught people’s attention:

Your rights are incidental at that point.

This line goes to the heart of the problem. Whether the writer is a cop (which doesn’t appear to be the case) or a badge bunny, it reflects a deeply core belief that explains why more than 1000 people have been killed by police thus far this year.

At the point in time when a law enforcement officer decides, whether by thought or rote, that you’re going to die, your “rights are incidental.”  In the law, we discuss ad nauseam the relative merit of constitutional rights. We argue about the lawfulness of police use of force, whether they are, or should be, entitled to maim or kill whenever a police officer feels the slightest twinge of fear.

We question whether the emotion that compelled an officer to draw his weapon and fires a bullet into the body of another human being was really fear or the anger felt by the psychologically fragile who feels the base instinct to attack when someone fails to do as he commands.

In the case of John Livingston, Harnett County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Kehagias wasn’t threatened with harm. He was angered that Livingston failed to do as he commanded. And so he killed him.

Your rights are incidental at that point.

Unfortunately, this may be the strongest argument in favor of using force against the police.  If the options presented by law enforcement are comply or be killed, then a third choice would appear to be the only rational reaction since no one wants to die because of some cop’s mental instability. This isn’t just “unfortunate,” but deadly for all involved. Is that what Glockmeister was really shooting for?

Update:  In a subsequent comment at GlockTalk, a genius offers this critique:

The limited facts contained in that article could be put into a very short paragraph. The complete facts obviously need to be examined in order to fully determine what happened, why it happened it that way, and whether the actions of the deputies were within policy, lawful and reasonable for the circumstances. Sometimes mistakes of fact or law are made by LE. There can (ought) to be consequences for wrong decisions, within reason and the law, especially when wrong decisions and action harm the public.

The article is apparently written by an attorney who is a partner in a small firm in South Carolina, and who handles criminal defense and civil litigation. Any other news sources that have presented any official statements or released facts and evidence? Something that’s less like a courtroom argument for one side and more informative and objective?

Apparently, clicking on the source link is too hard for “Fastbolt,” thus giving rise to his confusion between commentary on the news and the news itself. Challenging stuff, apparently.

But had he spent his time learning rather than apologizing, he would have seen this:

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.

Want more? Complain to the sheriff. The opportunity was offered for the sheriff to provide whatever excuses he could muster. He made the choice to offer nothing. And so when there’s a dead body on the ground, a sheriff providing no information and witnesses to the killing talking, this is the story you get.

The cops don’t get a pass until they can come up with a better excuse than the truth. Wait as long as you want for the cops to offer an explanation that meets your preferred narrative. For the rest of us, they gave up the opportunity when the made the deliberate decision to say nothing.

17 thoughts on “When Rights Become “Incidental” To Death (Update)

  1. mb

    Shorter version: Cops have guns, so you should just waive your Constitutional rights like most people do. If you’re not scared enough of cops to automatically acquiesce to anything they want, they are justified in thinking you must be a criminal.

  2. David M.

    Dear denizens of Glock Talk,

    I can do trigger warnings too! Check it out.

    Spoiler: I’m a pro-gun Kraut and I’m not scared of Greenfield’s wordz.

    Your pal,

  3. RAFIV

    Maybe it’s cuz I have been a denzien of gun forums, but I think what we have here is a bit of a “cultural misunderstanding”. Most lawful gun owners tend to be rather pragmatic and, as a rule, law abiding. They are supportive of law enforcement as a rule, but usually not blindly or obsequiosly. They tend to be rather aggressive in the assertion of many of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

    As a practical matter, when confronted with a cop with a gun, asserting your rights aggressively will likely get you killed. I would suggest that the author was merely affirming this point, not endorsing it. Like the first rule of policing, the first rule of surviving an interaction with a cop, especially if you’re an armed civilian, is try not to provoke a confrontation. And, as they are particularly scary demographic – people with licenses to carry – they try to be especially mindful of this. No one wants to get shot because a cop sees your Glock.

    1. SHG Post author

      As a practical matter, when confronted with a cop with a gun, asserting your rights aggressively will likely get you killed.

      All cops have guns, and what constitutes “aggressively”? If a cop ordered a lawful carrying guy to hand over his weapon for seizure, would he? Would this be cool with him, because he wants to not get shot? Would he simply comply obsequiously, or would he assert his rights? Where is the line of aggressively, since all cops have guns?

      1. mb

        I actually have handed over my legally carried gun during a traffic stop. Where are these cops that are scared of lawfully armed citizens? Here in the rural south, they think we’re awesome, and compliment us on the quality of our weapons.

          1. mb

            Yeah, he gave it back. If he hadn’t, I’d have told him to, if he’d left with it I’d have contacted the department to demand its return, and if they had refused I’d have sued the department and the individual officer. But I’m unusual, and the culture where I live that respects the right to keep and bear arms is not universal, and I don’t feel like my general right to own guns is diminished by declaring them when confronted by police. So that really doesn’t have anything to do with issue here.

            The average person, and the below average but above present threat to officer safety person is expected to assert his rights, and is considered to have waived them if he fails to do so. It’s great to make it easy on cops, and I usually try to, but failure to do so isn’t supposed to carry a death sentence.

      2. RAFIV

        Scott, I see your larger point, and agree. Whether someone is armed or not, any confrontation with law enforcement necessarily carries with it the possibily that the civilian will be killed by twitchy, cranky, crazy, lazy cop. This is unacceptable, yet it is endorsed or at least tolerated in the mainstream.

        My interpretation of this poster is that he was not thinking that deeply about the subject. He is simply suggesting a “don’t antagonize them” policy. There is no simple, practical ,or one-size-fits-all application of that theory. Many gun owners would shoot if the law enforcement try to come into their home without a warrant. But, I would suggest, many are not stupid enough to believe that their constitutional rights would protect them from getting shot or protect them from prosecution. That’s all.

        1. Mort

          My interpretation of this poster is that he was not thinking that deeply about the subject.

          Most badge-fellaters don’t.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Badge Bunny.

    My script writers couldn’t keep a straight face when I told them that Badge Bunny could be a twelve video series in at least five porn genres. Not to mention become a straight up vanilla reality television blockbuster that could bring twenty million viewers a week.

    Badge Bunny.

    Badge Bunny is going places. Badge Bunny has legs. Badge Bunny is gonna be an apparel line, appear in romance novels, and work it’s way into hip hop.

    Badge Bunny is gonna go both ways Badge Bunny has it all.

    Only the SJ Poet Laureate cam save the world from Badge Bunny now.

    You better hope Fubar’s Monday schedule isn’t too busy esteemed one. If it is and he fails to evisirate Badge Bunny and scatter what remains to the winds I might be forced to ignore the labor rights of my script writers, and force them to open Badge Bunny’s Pandora’s box.

    P.S. I would be buying shares, if I was you, in whatever kleenex company wins the bidding war to become the main sponsor of Glockmeister.

  5. Pingback: Arrested and Killed for Incidental Rights | Suspicious American

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