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Residents itching for answers in Harnett Sheriff probe

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Residents want answers as investigations continue.

There's no shortage of investigations into the Harnett County Sheriff's Office -- federal, state, and a county internal probe are all underway, looking into allegations of corruption at HCSO.

At Monday night's county commissioners meeting, local leaders urged residents to wait for the facts to come out, to be patient. Residents didn't want to hear it.

"The community as a whole has lost respect for this sheriff's department," said Harnett resident Jerry Rivas. "Worse than that, there is no trust."

Rivas was one of several impatient members of this community who signed up to address the county commission. Some offered similar stories of abuse at the hands of county deputies.

"I've had a Harnett deputy threaten me with his badge and his gun," said Harnett resident Chris Knights.

Outside the meeting -- more stories. Dolly and Anthony Griggs came holding signs that read, 'Justice for Christian.' Their son's shooting death was ruled a justifiable homicide by the Harnett District Attorney. The Griggs call it a cover-up for murder.

"We feel that the Harnett County Sheriff's Department, because of their relationship with the (shooter's) family, helped collaborate with them to cover up the murder," Dolly Griggs said.

The ongoing tensions here came to a head last November, when John Livingston was shot and killed by deputies who showed up at his door.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the case. The county hired Raleigh attorney Dan Boyce to help navigate the litigation. County critics called it high-priced public relations.

"Why do we need this law firm? Why can't the truth come out?" Livingston family spokesperson Maria Arias said to commissioners. "These families deserve the truth; the citizens deserve truth and justice, not a huge legal bill."

County Commission chairman Jim Burgin defended the move to hire outside counsel.

"If you've got something wrong, you have to go to a doctor. You try to get the best doctor you can find. That's the way we are," Burgin said. "I'm not saying there's anything wrong. But, I want to know."

The Harnett County NAACP issued a news release this week pledging money and resources to "uncover the corruptions of the Harnett County Sheriff's Department".

"I wouldn't (call it) corruption," Burgin said. "I would say there might be some situations where (deputies) did not do maybe exactly a procedure that you or I would do."

Burgin says the ongoing investigations are probing seven questionable cases. A much smaller number than the 20 cases cited by some residents. The chairman could not provide a timetable on when the investigations will wrap up. It will likely take months.

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