A jury awarded $97 million to the family of a former South Carolina mayor who investigators say was shot to death by a police officer who was never charged in the slaying.
Bert Reeves was shot in the chest in May 2011 by Officer Randall Price along a dirt road, investigators said.
The pair had been feuding after Reeves objected to the officer arresting an employee of his construction business.
An attorney for Reeves’ family told jurors that Price shot the former mayor after he raised concerns about the officer’s “aggressive behavior.”
Reeves wanted the officer fired, and attorney Mullins McLeod said the officer retaliated.
“You certainly should be able to complain about a cop without fear of being killed,” McLeod said during the trial.
Price’s attorney argued that Reeves suffered from bipolar disorder and was enraged when he confronted the officer – who shot the ex-mayor in self-defense, said attorney Lake Summers.
Price has not been charged in the fatal shooting, but McLeod said the death remains under investigation.
McLeod argued that Cottageville should have never hired Price as an officer because of a troubled work history.
The award includes $7.5 million actual damages, $60 million punitive damages against Cottageville, and $30 million punitive damages against Price – who is no longer a police officer.
Cottageville, a town of about 750 people, has several weeks to appeal the verdict.
Officials said the punitive damages the town was ordered to pay could fund its budget for 162 years.
“I don’t think they’ll ever collect that money because the town doesn’t have any money,” said former Town Councilman Jimmy Ramsey. “I don’t know if we’ll have to go bankrupt, but I’m not sure we’re going to be able to survive as a town, either.”