Under ordinary circumstances, this would be considered a home break-in, assault and battery, and murder. It would be an open-and-shut case. There were plenty of eyewitnesses and evidence to convict the criminal. He’d be behind bars now, and hopefully would remain there for a long time.
But there’s just one factor that changes everything. The man breaking and entering, assaulting and battering, and killing an innocent and unarmed man, was a cop. That means that it will be very difficult to prosecute him, let alone convict him, for what he did. After all, he was only doing what he needed to protect himself.
Here’s what happened. A deputy with the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina came to a man’s residence as part of an assault investigation. It was about 3:40 in the morning. Thirty-three-year-old John Livingston answered the door. The man the police were looking for did not live at that residence anymore. He wasn’t there. The sheriff’s deputy asked if he could search the place. John responded very plainly, “Not without a search warrant.” Then, he closed the door. That’s where the confrontation should have ended. But that was only the beginning. WNCN reported:
“The cop kicked in the door, got on top of him, started slinging him around, beat him…” Carroll [Livingston’s roommate] 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.
“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.
WNCN saw six bullet holes in the side of the home from the shooting.
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.
It sounds like the cop didn’t want to hear anything about a search warrant. The law is that a cop can’t search you, your house, or your car without either a search warrant or your consent (unless there’s probable cause in plain view). Livingston could have given his consent if he wanted to, but it was 3:40 in the morning. And he was under no obligation to allow a search of his residence. The cop needed a search warrant. That’s the law. As police say, “the law’s the law.” If they don’t like the 4th Amendment, they should work through their elected representatives in the legislature to repeal the 4th Amendment. Hopefully, that would never happen. But until it happens, the police are obligated to follow the laws that they’re hired to enforce on everyone else.