The family of a South Carolina mayor who was shot by a police officer has been awarded $97 million in a wrongful death case. According to reports, the mayor was shot and killed after he complained about the officer’s aggressive behavior. The wrongful death verdict was considered a success for the family who tragically lost their loved one in a preventable crime. The mayor was shot in the chest with a revolver belonging to an officer in May 2011. The mayor was shot on a small dirt road and, according to local authorities, the officer still has not been charged with the crime.
The tension between the mayor and the officer grew after the mayor objected the arrest of an employee in his construction business. The family sued the officer and the town of Cottageville, alleging that it should never have hired the officer due to his checkered past and troubled employment history. An attorney representing the officer alleges that the mayor had bipolar disorder and was enraged when he confronted the officer. A defense attorney claimed that the officer only shot the mayor in self-defense.
This case is an example of how a civil case can help invoke a criminal trial to ensure that individuals are held liable for their actions. In some cases, local police departments do not have the evidence necessary to bring a criminal case. With a lower standard of proof (by preponderance of the evidence) than in criminal cases (beyond reasonable doubt), civil cases can help to shed light on a case, get witnesses and defendants to make sworn statements, and can have the power to push a criminal matter forward.
According to an editorial published by the civil attorney who handled the near $100 million case, police departments have long been scrutinized for abuses of power. Though police officers are sworn to preserve the law and protect citizens, more and more Americans have suffered at the hands of abusive police tactics. In this case, the mayor lost his life because an officer took the law into his own hands. While many saw the verdict as having “derived from a group of jurors who are anti-law enforcement,” the decision was the product of policies that encouraged individual officers to bring their own weapons and handcuffs to work to save the town money. The town also suffered because there was no training or supervision regarding police tactics to prevent such accidents from occurring.
The jury award holds the town responsible for an incident that resulted from failure to train and oversee officers. Our Raleigh personal injury attorneys are committed to holding all individuals and entities responsible in the event of a wrongful death. The reward should be considered a condemnation of the Cottageville Police Department for its operational failures. Had it followed protocol, the agency could have prevented death of the mayor. The civil case and jury verdict drawing national attention may still have criminal implications. Critics of the Cottageville Police Department are urging the local agency be abolished in favor of a satellite community office. The jury award is an indictment against the wrongful death of the mayor as well as the policies that failed to protect local residents.
Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
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