YSPD closes case on fatal shooting
- Published: October 17, 2019
The Yellow Springs Police Department officially closed its case last week in the December 2018 fatal shooting of local resident Kenneth Livingston.
The YSPD has confirmed its initial determination that Livingston, 40, died of an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head during a small social gathering at a downtown apartment. That finding was upheld by an investigation that included forensic analysis, witness interviews and a coroner’s report, according to YS Police Chief Brian Carlson this week.
“It was a complete accident,” Carlson said.
A resident of the village, Livingston grew up in town and attended Yellow Springs schools. He was the son of the late local police officer Hugh Livingston.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of a member of our community,” Carlson wrote in a statement last week.
According to investigation documents released to the News last week, the shooting took place on the deck of a Corry Street apartment on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. According to witnesses, Livingston brought his handgun to the party and had showed it to friends earlier in the night. At around 10:15 p.m., on the deck, two witnesses said they saw him put the gun up to his head and pull the trigger.
Despite early indications that Livingston died accidentally at his own hand, Carlson said the investigation, led by responding Officer Paul Raffoul, “considered every avenue.”
“We didn’t get tunnel vision on it,” Carlson said. “We opened up the box.”
Carlson added that the five people present at the gathering, three of whom left after the shooting and before police arrived, were never suspected of foul play.
In a letter to the local department dated Sept. 20, 2019, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen K. Haller wrote that he supported the YSPD’s conclusion in the case:
“It is the opinion of the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney that the death of Kenneth E. Livingston was due to his own accidental shooting, based on the evidence, extensive investigation, the Coroner’s findings and official verdict. No criminal charges will be filed against any person in this matter.”
The delay in closing the investigation came as the Village waited on several other agencies, according to Carlson this week. They included the Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory, which was completing a DNA analysis of the firearm, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, which is involved in investigating the homicide of villager Lonya Clark.
According to Carlson, BCI requested that YSPD keep the Livingston case open to investigate claims that they were possibly connected. Clark had helped the apartment resident clean up the scene the following morning, but otherwise there was no connection, Carlson said.
Previously, in February, Greene County Coroner Kevin Sharrett ruled that Livingston’s death was an accident. His finding was that Livingston died of acute ventricular dysrhythmia and a contact gunshot wound of the head. The coroner noted “muzzle abrasion on the skin,” which, along with other evidence, indicated that the gun was in close range to the skin when fired.
In addition, according to Carlson, blood spatter was found on Livingston’s hand, the angle of the bullet wound was consistent with a self-inflicted shot, and there were indications that no one had handled the gun after Livingston.
Although an analysis of the firearm did not find any DNA foreign to Livingston, the gun’s loaded magazine did, which corresponds with witness testimony that both had been handled by friends at the party, Carlson added.
An empty magazine was also found at the scene, raising the possibility that the two magazines may have been switched, by Livingston or another. Carlson said that while that is possible, it does not mean it was done intentionally.
“Is that a possibility? Absolutely. Does it incriminate anyone else? No.”
According to the YSPD investigation, one of the two witnesses on the deck with Livingston at the time of the shooting stated that it was common for Livingston to carry a firearm and show it to others and that “many times” before he had put an unloaded gun to his head and pulled the trigger. A friend not at the gathering told police Livingston carried his handgun in the village often.
The coroner’s toxicology report additionally indicated that Livingston had consumed alcohol and marijuana, with a blood alcohol content of 0.125, a level at which “significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement,” can occur, according to the investigation.
Initial reports of two gunshots were found to be an echo created between the apartment building and Peach’s Grill, according to the investigation. In addition, a bystander report of a man running from the scene in a bullet-proof vest with an assault rifle turned out to be unfounded, the investigation concluded.