WRAL Investigates

For Christian Griggs' parents, wrongful-death verdict is progress, not justice

Posted December 14, 2018 6:15 p.m. EST
Updated December 14, 2018 6:19 p.m. EST

Earlier this week, a Harnett County jury agreed with the parents of Christian Griggs, who was shot to death by his father-in-law, an Angier minister, in 2013.

Dolly and Tony Griggs filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the minister, arguing that four shots to the back shouldn't be considered self defense.

After a five-day trial, the jury agreed and awarded $250,000 to Christian Griggs' estate.

But Dolly and Tony Griggs aren't completely satisfied. They want change and they say they are still seeking justice.

"Just to hear that it (their argument) was solidified and substantiated, all the things we have been saying the whole time, to hear it out in public," Dolly Griggs said in an interview with WRAL News a day after the trial ended.

The Griggs family has believed from the beginning their son was not killed in self defense, but the Harnett County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney never pursued criminal charges against Pat Chisenhall, the man who fired the shots. Chisenhall said he shot Christian Griggs as the young man was breaking into his house through a living room window.

"Citizens must have a recourse beyond the DA and the sheriff for someone to come in and do an inspection and provide oversight," Tony Griggs said

Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats, who was not the sheriff at the time of the shooting, released a statement saying he stands by his predecessor's decision not to pursue charges. District Attorney Vernon Stewart refused to comment on the case. The Griggses said they were angry but not surprised by the responses.

"I think he should resign," Dolly Griggs said of DA Stewart, "and I think congresspersons, I think the governor and [Attorney General] Josh Stein should demand him to resign with how he has mishandled this case."

The Griggses plan to continue to fight for what they are calling justice, though they don't know yet what their next step will be. For now they are grateful for a verdict in their favor.

Dolly Griggs says she went straight to her son's grave after the trial ended.

"I just dropped down on my knees and I just put my head down on his headstone and cried," she said.

The Griggses haven't formally reached out to higher authorities, but said they plan to do so soon.

Chisenhall did not speak after the trial ended and his attorney said he is unlikely to want to. A WRAL reporter and photographer went to the Chisenhall home Thursday, but no one answered the door.