A Summerville man on Tuesday sued Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet, claiming he suffered “tremendous and irreparable” harm when the elected official pointed a gun and yelled racial epithets at him this summer.
The Aug. 25 encounter between Leroy Fulton, who is black, and Nisbet, who is white, resulted in the coroner’s arrest and suspension.
The suit, filed in Charleston federal court by attorneys Mullins McLeod and David Aylor, alleges violations of Fulton’s civil rights and calls for actual, special and punitive monetary damages.
Nisbet said Tuesday that his attorney, Grover Seaton III of Moncks Corner, advised him to no longer comment about the case.
In past interviews, he has insisted that he saw Fulton, his neighbor, pull a gun on a man who showed up at Fulton’s home early that morning to repossess a pickup truck. Fulton left in the truck, but Nisbet gave chase in a county SUV and stopped him near Summerville’s Doty Park.
The coroner, who had been drinking beer, pointed his gun at Fulton and kept it drawn until town police officers showed up and ordered him to drop it. Fulton alleged that Nisbet used racially charged words during the confrontation.
A 911 call captured Nisbet in the background using the N-word while talking with a Summerville police supervisor shortly before the run-in. He later used the terms “home slice” and “homeboy” and joked about race during his conversations with the officers.
Neither man was arrested that night. Investigators said the repo man confirmed Nisbet’s account that Fulton had pulled a gun, but they also expressed doubt, adding that such action by Fulton likely would be protected by law.
Nisbet was later jailed on a charge of misconduct in office. The governor suspended him Oct. 1 after a grand jury indicted him on that charge. The suspension will last until the charge is resolved or another person is elected. Nisbet has rejected calls for his resignation.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleges that Nisbet violated Fulton’s “constitutional rights to be free from unnecessary government interference, intrusion and force ... regardless of race.” The encounter amounted to an unreasonable seizure barred under the Fourth Amendment, false imprisonment and assault, the suit stated.
The civil complaint added that Nisbet had basic law enforcement training at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy and had 16 hours of yearly training since he was elected nearly 20 years ago. But his actions while confronting Fulton were not “reasonably necessary under the circumstances,” the document alleged.
If weren’t for the police officers who responded, the filing stated, Fulton thinks he would have been shot and killed.
Reach Andrew Knapp at (843) 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.