South Carolina Town Ordered to Pay Nearly $100M for Hiring Cop
A federal jury awarded an astronomical $97.5 million dollars to the family of a former mayor who was shot and killed by a police officer with a troubled past.
Now the town of Cottageville, population 750, is wondering how and if it will ever pay the money to the family of Bert Reeves, who was killed by Randall Price, a cop who had been through eight jobs in 11 years, including having been fired from several departments.
The lawsuit contended that the town never should have hired Price knowing his troubled history. Price is also named in a separate lawsuit from another Cottageville resident.
Now there is talk that the police department may be disbanded, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
The controversy over the shooting nearly led the town to disband its police department. McLeod said the town should revisit that issue and consider dumping the police department in favor of a substation for Colleton County sheriff’s deputies. “That would make the town safer overnight,” he said.
The town only had one full-time police officer for years. Grimsley added several more after he took office last October.
Lifelong resident Esther Womble, 73, lives by the Dollar General in the house her parents owned. She said residents had been complaining for years that the town’s officers were rude and arrogant. She hopes the verdict sends a message that police officers should treat people with more respect.
“They made you feel small,” she said. “I hope this will calm them down. … I hope we can go back to the friendly town it used to be.”
Price, who is no longer a cop is exactly the type of bad cop PINAC intends to track as part of our on going efforts to collect information on bad cops as they move from one job to the next and continue to leave a trail of lies, murder and other misconduct in their wake. Our mission is to create a database on the new site we are working to launch before the end of the year.
Price remains free and has not yet been charged with a crime. Price claimed the shooting was self-defense. Since there were no witnesses, it’s unlikely that Price will ever see prison time for the shooting even if he gets charged.
Prior to the shooting, the two men had a history of conflict, according to the Jim Fisher True Crime blog:
Along a dirt road in Cottageville, South Carolina on May 16, 2011, Officer Randall Price of the Cottageville Police Department shot and killed Bert Reeves, a local construction company owner and the town’s former mayor. They were both 40-years-old, had an antagonistic history between them, and, at the time of the shooting, were engaged in physical combat. The backgrounds of both men involved conflict and trouble. Reeves, shot in the chest, died from his wounds at a local hospital. The chief of the six-man police department, consisting of only two full-time patrol officers, placed Officer Price on paid administrative leave pending the investigation of the shooting by detectives with the state.
Mayor Reeves, in 2004, scolded a town officer for not writing enough speeding tickets to pay for his job. ( With 10,000 vehicles passing through town every day on a major route between Charleston and Waterboro, Cottageville is a notorious speed trap.) In March 2006, a sheriff’s deputy arrested Reeves for driving 103 mph in a 55 mph zone. Three months later, another deputy warned Reeves for driving 71 in a 55 mph area. In July 2006, Reeves suffered a serious brain injury after flipping his pickup. That November, the mayor reported his wife and children missing. He said they had been taken against their will by unidentified people angry at him over some business deal “turned ugly.” As it turned out, the wife and kids had left on their own volition to get away from Reeves for awhile. A month later, after the state revealed that Reeves had traces of marijuana in his blood when he wrecked his truck, the mayor resigned. About a month before the fatal shooting, Reeves had complained about Officer Price’s arrest of one of his relatives on an alcholol related charge.
Officer Randall Price, before joining the Cottageville force in May 2008, had, two years earlier, been fired from the Blockville Police Department over a claim of excessive force. In 2001, he had been fired from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office for criminal domestic violence, and in 1999 from the McCormick County Sheriff’s Office for unsafe driving. During an eleven year period, Price had held jobs with eight different law enforcement agencies. He was the quintessential small town gypsy cop.
In September 2011, Cottageville Mayor Margaret Steen laid off Officer Price. The police department, she said, couldn’t afford to keep him on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the shooting investigation. The former mayor shot by Price had been Steen’s nephew.
The town only has $1 million insurance policy which is obviously not enough to cover the award. Although it is likely the award will be reduced upon appeal, the town may have to declare bankruptcy. The town has already disbanded its police force which appears to have been the biggest source of revenue for the town. Between 2008 and 2011, Price alone brought in more than $600 thousand in revenue generated from tickets.
Clearly this town was policing for profit, not for the safety of the town and its residents. Many small towns rely on ticket revenue and civil asset forfeiture as either a primary source of revenue or a way to pad their budgets.