LILLINGTON, N.C. (AP) — The family of a man fatally shot after refusing to allow a warrantless search of his home last year is suing a North Carolina sheriff and his predecessor, accusing them of failing to discipline deputies with histories of abusing and harassing the public.
News outlets report the lawsuit was filed Wednesday, one year after 33-year-old John Livingston of Lillington was confronted by deputy Nicholas Kehagias while sitting on his front porch.
Five other individuals have joined the lawsuit, which accuses Kehagias and two other deputies whose surnames begin with the letter K of calling themselves the "KKK" and training together in a type of "fight club."
The deputy told The News & Observer of Raleigh in May that he feared for his life after his argument with Livingston turned physical and the man grabbed his Taser, shocking him for 20 seconds or more. A grand jury refused to indict him.
The lawsuit says the autopsy showed multiple cuts opened up on Livingston's forehead and face during the assault, as well as multiple abrasions and impact bruises.
It names six members of the Harnett County Sheriff's Office as defendants: former Sheriff Larry Rollins and current Sheriff Wayne Coats, Kehagias, and deputies Brandon Klingman, John Knight and John Werbelow.
The department could not be immediately reached for comment.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division has opened a criminal investigation into the operations of the sheriff's office.
The lawsuit cites violations of the U.S. Constitution, which protects residents from unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement. Excessive force and unwarranted entry are considered violations of the Fourth Amendment.
The plaintiffs argue that supervisors "knew or should have known" about misconduct by Kehagias, and that if they had fired or reprimanded him, Livingston would not have been killed.
Kehagias, who resigned in June, has said that critics have focused too intently on his foot being in the threshold of Livingston's door after being told he could not come inside. He said they're "trying to nitpick a very small portion of this event that isn't something that I think is crucial to the matter."