Suspended Dorchester Co. coroner faces federal civil lawsuit following August incident

Suspended Dorchester Co. coroner faces federal civil lawsuit following August incident
Still of dash camera video. (Photo Source: Summerville Police)
Still of dash camera video. (Photo Source: Summerville Police)

DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The suspended Dorchester County coroner faces a federal civil lawsuit in connection with incident in which he pulled a gun on a neighbor.

"Coroner Nisbet really had no duty and no right to stop him," said David Aylor, attorney representing Leroy Fulton.

The lawsuit, filed by Leroy Fulton, accuses Chris Nisbet of depriving Fulton of his Fourth Amendment rights, false imprisonment and assault.

Nisbet was indicted on a charge of misconduct in office in connection with what police called a "civil disturbance" in August. Gov. Nikki Haley suspended Nisbet from office on Oct. 1 following the indictment.

"This was a constitutional officer clearly violating the rights of Leroy Fulton, in that he stopped him, held him and kept him there at gun point - for no absolute reason," said Aylor.

The lawsuit, filed by Nisbet's neighbor, Leroy Fulton, claims Nisbet "undertook an unlawful pursuit of (Fulton)" and then chased him down using his county-issued, blue light-equipped pickup truck and blocked Fulton with the truck in the parking lot of Doty Park. The suit also alleges Nisbet got out of his county truck and approached Fulton with his weapon drawn.

"Defendant proceeded to point his firearm at Plaintiff and ordered Plaintiff to get out of his vehicle, using racial epithets," the suit states.

Police responded to the area at 12:42 a.m. on Aug. 25. Police said when they arrived, Nisbet had drawn a gun but it was pointed at the ground.

Fulton's suit alleges "but for the actions of the Summerville Police officers, (Fulton) would have been shot and killed by (Nisbet)."

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires "probable cause" before a warrant can be issued. The suit alleges Nisbet "conducted an unlawful and unreasonable stop and furthermore used excessive force" during the incident.

The suit alleges there was "no lawful basis" for Nisbet's "restraint and imprisonment of Plaintiff." It further accuses Nisbet of attempting or offering "with force and violence to inflict bodily harm" on Fulton, stating the "force and violence was greater than reasonably necessary under the circumstances."

The night of the incident, Nisbet told Summerville Police he believed he saw Fulton point a gun at a repo man attempting to remove Fulton's truck in front of his home. However, according to the Summerville Police report, police did not find a firearm on Fulton, in his car or in the surrounding area.

"It's obviously been a very traumatic situation," said Aylor. "He was very much scared for his life."

The suit states Fulton suffered and continues to suffer "tremendous and irreparable emotional and mental harm" and seeks actual and punitive damages. The suit also states Fulton has requested a jury trial.

Nisbet's attorney has been reached for comment and has not yet spoken about the civil suit.

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