A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against a Colleton County town after one its police officers shot and killed the mayor last year.
Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod filed the lawsuit against the town of Cottageville, its police department, and former officer Randall Price on Tuesday. McLeod says this suit is on behalf of the children of Cottageville Mayor Bert Reeves. Reeves was shot by Price under suspicious circumstances in May 2011. The attorney says that, before he was shot, the mayor had complained about Price arresting one of his construction company’s employees.
“Our investigation leads us to believe that Price confronted Mr. Reeves on a dirt road. It was not a routine traffic stop. What exactly happened during that encounter, we don’t yet know,” McLeod told South Carolina Radio Network, “What we do know is that Bert was unarmed and we don’t believe that deadly force was justified.”
McLeod says the town of Cottageville was negligent by allowing someone like Price to be hired. He says Price was fired from 3 previous jobs before being was hired in Cottageville, with allegations of excessive force and brutality following him after those jobs.
The lawsuit states that approximately 70% of Cottageville’s annual revenue comes from traffic tickets and court fines. McLeod claims it was for these reasons that the town hired such an aggressive officer.
The State Law Enforcement Division investigated the shooting in the months after it occurred, but never took any action. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Justice Department are now looking into the case. Price was laid off in September.
The town’s new mayor told the Charleston Post & Courier that the town had anticipated the lawsuit, but could not comment until she had seen the complaint. Margaret Steen added that it had been months since she received any updates on the federal investigation.
Tripp Girardeau contributed to this report