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Family of Slain Mayor |in S.C. Awarded $97M

(CN) - A federal jury in Charleston awarded $97 million to the family of a former mayor of tiny Cottageville, S.C., who authorities say was shot to death by a police officer.

In a wrongful death suit filed Colleton County in September 2012 and later removed to the federal court, the family of Mayor Carl Reeves claimed the officer, Randall Price, who has never been charged with the death, had a history of employing "forceful and abusive police tactics" that got him booted off at least three other police departments.

So pervasive and well-known was Price's behavior, the family said, that his story was featured in a 2005 television series "Tarnished Badges," a show that purported to ask how supposed rogue cops could still be employed.

Despite all this, Cottageville, a town of less than 1,000 residents, hired Price in 2008. Not long afterward, the Reeves family says, residents turned to the mayor to address their concerns about Price's alleged chronic use of excessive force.

Reeves soon became a vocal critic of the officer, and frequently expressed concerns about him.

That all ended on the night of May 16, 2011, when, the mayor's family claimed, Price drove onto Nut Hatch Lane, a dirt road about two miles from Cottageville's town hall, to confront Reeves.

"Officer Price was not performing a traffic stop, did not call for backup, and did not sound his siren at any time," the Reeves family said.

The details of what transpired next remain largely a mystery. What is known is the Mayor Reeves was shot once in the chest with Officer Price's service revolver. The incident is still being investigated.

During the trial, Price's attorney, Lake Summers, argued that the mayor had bipolar disorder, that he attacked Price, and that the officer only fired in self-defense.

Mullins McLeod, the Reeves family attorney, told the jury that the mayor had made clear he wanted Price fired and the officer retaliated.

"You certainly should be able to complain about a cop without fear of being killed," McLeod said.

The award includes $7.5 million actual damages, $60 million punitive damages against the town, and $30 million punitive damages against Price.

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