Police Abuse

No Charges Against Cop Who Got Into a Deadly Struggle After a Door Hit His Foot

Determined to arrest John Livingston for assaulting his pride, Deputy Nicholas Kehagias ended up shooting him dead.

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Livingston family

Nicholas Kehagias, a sheriff's deputy in Harnett County, North Carolina, came to John Livingston's house in the middle of the night, looking for two people who weren't there. Ten minutes later, Livingston was lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his porch, mortally wounded by three rounds from the deputy's gun. 

Last month a grand jury declined to indict Kehagias for second-degree murder in connection with the November 15 shooting. But a recent investigation by the Raleigh News & Observer suggests the deputy's behavior that night fits a pattern of excessive force and needless escalation of encounters with local residents.

Kehagias was responding to an assault complaint. The fight did not happen at Livingston's house, but Kehagias thought two of the people allegedly involved might be there. When Livingston said they weren't, Kehagias did not believe him. He wanted to come in and have a look around. Not unless you have a warrant, Livingston said, shutting the door, which hit Kehagias on his foot and arm. The deputy viewed that as an assault and barged into Livingston's house along with his partner, determined to vindicate the affront by handcuffing Livingston and hauling him off to jail.

But Livingston did not want to be handcuffed, and a struggle ensued, during which Kehagias, a 26-year-old who is six feet, two inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, was unable, even with his partner's help, to control Livingston, a 33-year-old who was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed 130 pounds. Kehagias sprayed Livingston with pepper spray, elbowed him in the ribs, and repeatedly shocked him with a Taser, but still could not manage to get him in handcuffs. Livingston picked up the Taser, which Kehagias had dropped, and turned it against the deputy, at which point Kehagias drew his pistol and and shot Livingston three times, once in each arm and once in the chest. Livingston might have survived, but the EMTs arrived late, having gone to the wrong address. 

While the basic facts of the struggle, which was witnessed by Livingston's roommate and a visiting friend as well as the cops, are pretty clear, the deputy's justification for firing his weapon is a matter of dispute. "He was stronger than me every time we turned around," Kehagias told The News & Observer's Mandy Locke. "I was trying to fight for my own life." Apparently the grand jury agreed that Kehagias reasonably feared for his life once Livingston grabbed the Taser. But the real question is what Kehagias was doing in the house to begin with. "If someone says, 'No, you are not allowed in my house. Come back with a warrant,' I'm done," he told Locke. "If I'm leaning there and talking to you, and all of the sudden you decide to slam the door on me, I think that's a pretty important distinction."

Important enough to get into a situation where Kehagias says he felt he had no choice but to use deadly force? Before Kehagias decided he had to arrest Livingston, the only real injury was to the deputy's pride. If he had been willing to tolerate that, Livingston would still be alive. The News & Observer calls the shooting "a death that defies reason," which seems about right.

Locke found evidence that Kehagias, who at the time of the shooting had been a deputy for two and a half years, has a low tolerance for perceived disrespect. "In that time," the paper reports, "he used force—pepper spray, a Taser, a gun—more than any other deputy in the department, according to records provided by the sheriff's office and emergency dispatchers. In 2014 and 2015, he also arrested more people on charges of resisting a public officer than any other deputy—26 times."

In one incident, Michael Cardwell, a 66-year-old veteran who called for help because his thyroid was out of control, ended up with a broken femur and hip after a close encounter with Kehagias. Cardwell, like Livingston, does not seem like a formidable opponent: He is five feet, seven inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. Kehagias said he tackled Cardwell only after Cardwell pushed him and that Cardwell "assaulted" him by spitting out pepper spray in his general direction. He also complained that his uniform pants were torn during the encounter. Cardwell was charged with assault and property damage.

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  1. These guys tend to be such pussies. So much bravado until they are even slightly challenged, and then cowering behind their badges.

    1. From my experience, especially the cops in my family, cops fall into two categories: Kids who were bullied in school and go into police work for a sense of power, and those who could not hack it in the military. So yeah, I agree with your assessment, pussies.

  2. Harnett County, NC was the hometown of Link Wray: Rumble

  3. Kehagias was responding to an assault complaint. The fight did not happen at Livingston’s house, but Kehagias thought two of the people allegedly involved might be there.

    It’s not enough to NOT call the cops anymore. The second you see that Crown Vic in your driveway, your life is on the line.

    And the boot lickers will defend these guys to no end. “He shouldn’t have fought back.” Your dumbass cop should understand “get a warrant.” End of story.

    1. Cops don’t need warrants, reasonable suspicion, or probable cause.

      They do whatever they want and then lie about it, and the courts will always believe them.

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  4. What’s it going to take? Cops being blown to kingdom come with a shotgun blast to the groin area? Seriously, how fucking dumb are these overgrown thugs to not see the danger they are fostering with their violent and evil actions?
    Is it going to take people standing behind a reinforced door with a gun already loaded and locked yelling out “Get a fucking warrant!” 2 seconds before they go full rock-n-roll?

    1. So much this. It’s full Sheriff of Nottingham mode, without the coin motive.

  5. If I’m leaning there

    So the cop was trespassing: when Livingston opened the door, Kehagias immediately entered the premises with his foot and arm. Which provided Kehagias with the necessary pretext when Livingston “slammed” the door on him.

    1. I wonder if Livingston would have done better to shoot him under the Castle Doctrine?

      1. He would technically have a better chance of being alive now.

        1. Yes, his chances couldn’t get any worse.

          Would love to see such a hypothetical go to court.

      2. I do believe this is literally the only option* you have at that point.

        *That ends with you alive and potentially free.

        I keep coming to the very unsettling conclusion the only way to survive these encounters is to shoot first and pray you get a good jury, and a lawyer who is half decent.

  6. “Apparently the grand jury agreed that Kehagias reasonably feared for his life once Livingston grabbed the Taser.”

    Huh? What? I thought tasers were non-lethal weapons.

    1. Nice catch.

    2. I was wondering the same thing.

    3. Livingston could have tased him into submission and then buttfucked him full of AIDS. It’s a reasonable fear.

      1. Hey, some old man Cardwell broke the hip of assaulted him by spitting out pepper spray in his general direction. Cardwell said so.

        You couldn’t make this up.

        He’ll probably get Officer of the Year.

      2. Don’t even joke. That is how I lost my pet monkey. Poor Mr. Nanner Peels

    4. Wait, Livingston is merely an untrained peasant, so something that would be nonlethal in the hands of a trained professional can become lethal in the hands of an ignorant serf. Livingston’s untrained and reckless use of a door was cause enough for the noble domestic hero to reasonably fear for his life.

      /PoliceOne

    5. Only when used on peasants.

  7. Apparently the grand jury agreed that Kehagias reasonably feared for his life once Livingston grabbed the Taser.

    So, Livingston has done nothing wrong. Two guys break the law to enter his home, attempt to kidnap by force without a legal cause, perpetuate physical assault and then employ weapons. Incompetently, it must be added, because even with superior numbers, size and firepower, the perp loses control of his weapon.

    At what point does Livingston get to reasonably fear for his life?

    You don’t live in America anymore, people.

  8. Dude that makes no sense at all man.

    http://www.Complete-Privacy.tk

    1. It’s like you are not even trying, anonobot.

  9. “If someone says, ‘No, you are not allowed in my house. Come back with a warrant,’ I’m done,” he told Locke. “If I’m leaning there and talking to you, and all of the sudden you decide to slam the door on me, I think that’s a pretty important distinction.”

    IANAL, but aren’t they exactly the same?

  10. Their Facebook is not a happy place.

    Jason Ray Livingston with Luis Mojica and 23 others at Harnett County Sheriff’s Department.
    April 5 ? Lillington, NC ?
    Citizens of Harnett!! Wake up, OUR elected DA told Kathy Livingston, John Livingston’s mother, in a meeting last week, that he and his assistant ray pheasant thought that they had enough evidence to charge officer keighas with second degree murder, okay if that’s the case why doesn’t the DA JUST CHARGE HIM. WE ALL KNOW THAT HE IS SENDING IT TO GRAND JURY first so he can claim whatever happens is because of the grand jury. In NORTH CAROLINA THE GRAND JURY is rigged for the DA, it’s secret, it’s not recorded and the DA controls all the evidence the grand jury gets to see. Wth. It’s like your in court but only one side gets to speak, a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if that’s what the DA wants and let a killer cop walk free no matter the facts. The fix is already happening, in not one other murder case since Vernon Stewart took office did they go to the grand jury first, , I wonder why? …

  11. Not unless you have a warrant, Livingston said, shutting the door, which hit Kehagias on his foot and arm.

    Establishing that Kehagias had illegally entered Livingston’s home.

    Back in the old country, people have a right to defend themselves from people who break into their homes. That’s back in the quaint old days when peasants had rights.

    1. Establishing that Kehagias had illegally entered Livingston’s home.

      Ah, you’d think that, with the way doors normally only move through a specific range of motion owing to their construction. However, the story leaves out how the murderee tore the door off the hinges before proceeding to hulksmash the guy who murdered him. Good Shoot.

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  13. Part of me would welcome a vigilante exacting justice on the police officers who commit these acts and the DAs who enable them, but the other part of me worries that the response would make this incident look like a traffic stop.

    1. Sadly, I can’t think of another way to curb this shit.

      1. They’re forgetting the purpose of laws and courts. When you make peaceful restitution and correction out of reach by legal means, people seek it out by extra-legal means.

        JFK mentioned this.

      2. Except that it wouldn’t curb it. It would have the opposite effect. Cops would start killing people the moment they got spooked, thinking they were dealing with a vigilante. You think it’s bad now? If a vigilante started going after bad cops, the number of people killed by the police would increase by at least tenfold. Maybe a hundredfold. And all of the killings would be ruled as justified.

        1. Sorry, no. I just patently disagree, most of these people are base cowards, and if they had some actual skin in the game, I definitely do believe it would stop.

          Besides, cops start killing people whwn they’re spooked now.

          Cops aren’t the marauding band of Vikings you make them out to be, they’re cowards and would behave like cowards.

          1. Also, if the killings increased like you claim, that would just encourage more vigilantism. There is no version of escalation where cops win vs a guerilla Army.

            1. I don’t think there are enough people willing to take up arms against the police to form an army. Especially since we haven’t seen a single vigilante yet. We are the domesticated descendants of a once wild and free people. The American experiment in liberty is over, and humanity is reverting to its default state of slavery.

        2. Is there another option that has any chance of success?

          (Serious question)

          1. If there is, I haven’t heard it.

            This seems as blatant as anything I’ve seen, and the Sheriff says its SOP to control the situation. Breaking the hip and femur of a 66 yo veteran who called for medical help is unbelievable.

    2. The Thin Blue Line version of “nuke it from orbit”

  14. but the EMTs arrived late, having gone to the wrong address.

    Fascinating. I wonder how that happened. I mean, GPS, squad car, probably flashing lights.

    A Harnett deputy’s aggressive choice, and a death that defies reason – The News & Observer

    At 3:49 a.m., Werbelow alerted dispatchers. Shots fired. Suspect down.

    Carroll thought about how lucky they were to have a state-of-the-art emergency services station a half-mile drive away. The men could see it from the deck of their home. Paramedics would be there in no time.

    Paramedics rolled out from the Anderson Creek EMS station at 3:54 a.m., within five minutes of the “shots fired” alert.

    But the ambulance went to 146 Evans St. That was where the women had fought, not where Kehagias fired his gun.

    At 4:05 a.m., as Livingston struggled to breathe, paramedics were on the other side of the neighborhood, confused and wondering where the deputies were. Two detectives ? the first to rush to Kehagias’ aid after the shooting ? made the same mistake.

    By the time a paramedic knelt beside Livingston, it had been well over 20 minutes since he was shot. He had no pulse.

    Somehow, the paramedics went to the wrong address. I am so shocked.

    I recommend reading the comment section. Looked at maybe 20. All outraged against the cops. No woodchipper sightings. Baby steps.

    1. Kehagias injured his shoulder that night and is on leave recuperating from surgery. He described the last five months as a “living hell.” He said he was sorry for Livingston’s family.

      “It’s the worst feeling in the world,” he said. “I didn’t have any choice.”

      He questioned the district attorney’s attempt to indict him.

      “There was nothing malicious that happened,” Kehagias said. “Why is the DA gonna let this dance out?”

      Check out this whiny little dog’s tonker.

  15. And yet, if someone were to put a bullet in this rogue cop’s head, somehow *they* would be the bad guy.

  16. Only positive side of the story the News and Observer still occasionally does investigative journalism.

  17. I still say they should only get one kill and then told thanks for your service, go find another way to make a living, in the name of public safety. I might agree to letting them stay on as unarmed meter maids.

  18. Kehagias, a 26-year-old who is six feet, two inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, was unable, even with his partner’s help, to control Livingston, a 33-year-old who was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed 130 pounds

    “He was stronger than me every time we turned around,” Kehagias told The News & Observer’s Mandy Locke. “I was trying to fight for my own life.”

    (from one of the linked articles) Livingston dropped out of high school at 17 and began working in construction. He worked 10 hours a day framing houses.

    Hmm, so in a struggle between a man who worked for a living and a couple of cops, the only way the cops could win was to pull a gun. Gee, what a surprise.

  19. Meh. He was a white male. He doesn’t matter.

    1. No riots. Not a life that matters.

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  21. Livingston’s mistake was opening the door for the cops in the first place. I would shout through the closed door or open a window on that same side of the house. “What do you want?” “Get a warrant or go away.”

    But never call the cops, never open the door to them if they show up at your house. Basic survival skills. It’s sad, but these are the things I’m teaching my elementary and middle school sons. That, and never (never, ever) answer any questions from the cops. It can never help you. Ever.

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