Local News

Family of Harnett man killed by deputy wants SBI files released

Posted July 25, 2016 5:37 p.m. EDT
Updated July 25, 2016 6:42 p.m. EDT

— The family of a man killed by a Harnett County deputy last fall said they believe case files will show a pattern of misconduct within the sheriff’s office, but a judge said she will need to read through the documents before making a decision about whether or not to release them.

John Livingston, 33, was shot and killed on the front porch of his Spring Lake home on Nov. 15. An autopsy ruled that he had cocaine and alcohol in his system when he got into a dispute with Deputy Nicholas Kehaigas.

Livingston’s family and friends admit he was not perfect, but they do not believe he should have been killed.

"There is a crisis in Harnett County. There is a law enforcement crisis," said Maria Arias, a family friend. "These citizens are not being protected."

Attorneys for Livingston, and six others who say they bore the brunt of misconduct at the hands of officers, want District Attorney Vernon Stewart to turn over the State Bureau of Investigation's files on the shooting.

"What are they hiding?" said Robert Zaytoun, the family's attorney. "Why do they not want this information released? Are they hiding something?"

A judge previously ruled that the files would be turned over in May, but Stewart refused, arguing they are not all public documents and could compromise people's privacy and reputations.

"I'm sorry this gentleman got killed. It's unfortunate the way it happened," said Edgar Bane, Stewart's attorney. "(The documents) are not public record and should not be put on Facebook and be put on other social media."

Livingston supporters were in the courtroom Monday for the hearing and demanded action.

"It's got to stop," said Penny Setzer. "They expect us not to do anything. How long do they expect us not to do anything?"

"We need a change. What happened to (Livingston) should never ever happen again," said Arias.

Superior Court Judge Gale Adams said it could be weeks before a decision is made about the documents.

Kehaigas stepped down in June. The DA asked a grand jury to indict him on a second-degree murder charge, but the grand jury declined.