CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – A law suit has been filed in the Cottageville case where the town's former mayor was fatally shot last year.
Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod filed the suit Tuesday morning on behalf of former Cottageville Mayor Bert Reeves' children against the Town of Cottageville, the Cottageville Police Department and former Officer Randall Price.
Investigators say Cottageville Officer Randall Price shot 40 year-old Bert Reeves at close range with his police issued gun on May 16, 2011 on Griffith Acres Drive in Cottageville. Last year the Colleton County Coroner says Cottageville Police officials won't say what caused the shooting only that the officer and Reeves had an altercation.
Price's records from the state's Criminal Justice Academy reveals his character had been in question with several law enforcement agencies with which he had been previously employed. He's worked for seven agencies in the last 11 years.
Price's employment with the Blackville Police Department was terminated in August of 2006 after the town's mayor said Price repeatedly used excessive force when dealing with incidents. His employment was later terminated with the Allendale Police Department in December of 2006.
In a letter from that mayor in 2006, he stated "I feel like your work habits and attitude are very undesirable."
According to a misconduct report form, Price displayed dangerous and/or unsafe practices with firearms and/or other police equipment; misrepresented employment-related information and was dishonest with superiors in Allendale.
Price had also been terminated from employment with the Wagener Police Department, Aiken County Sheriff's Office and the McCormick County Sheriff's Office. In 1988, records show Price was charged with pointing a firearm. That charge was dismissed and he was not convicted.
Little has been released about Reeves shooting. The 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office turned over the investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Cottageville Police Chief Charles Long says he hadn't learned yet of the suit. Long was not chief at the time of the shooting and took over in June following John Craddock's departure for Kuwait.
"I'm trying to change the image over here," Chief Long said.
Long says he wants the public to feel like they can count on the police department and says he's working on training the officers and conducting audits.
A press release issued by the McLeod Law Group states:
Today, Charleston Attorney Mullins McLeod filed suit on behalf of the innocent children of former Cottageville Mayor Bert Reeves who was shot and killed by Cottageville Police Officer Randall Price on May 16, 2011. McLeod was quoted as saying: "The family feels that justice in this case involves both criminal and civil liability. Today's lawsuit marks the first step towards justice in the civil case." In commenting on the allegations in the complaint, McLeod stated: "The civil case focuses on the inexcusable decision by the Town to hire an officer with a ‘tarnished badge' to work in a small, quaint town like Cottageville as well as Officer Price's reckless behavior the day of the shooting." The Complaint details Price's checkered past as a law enforcement officer including being fired from the McCormick County Sheriff's Office in 1999, the Wagener Police Department in 2000, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office in 2001, and the Blackville Police Department in 2006. The lawsuit also details that Officer Price has had prior allegations of excessive force and brutality and had displayed aggressive behavior. McLeod went on to state: "Our investigation leads us to believe that approximately 70% of the Town of Cottageville's annual revenue comes from traffic tickets and court fines and it was for these monetary reasons that the Town hired such an aggressive officer." The complaint, which is available at www.mcleod-lawgroup.com, alleges a claim for the violation of Bert Reeves' Civil Rights and also alleges Wrongful Death, Negligence, Assault and Battery against all defendants, as well as Negligent Hiring, Supervision and Retention against the Town of Cottageville and the Cottageville Police Department. The complaint further alleges that when Officer Price was hired he began to target Bert Reeves because Reeves had voiced his concerns about complaints he received from Cottageville residents regarding Officer Price's aggressive behavior.
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