Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet calls his neighbor the N-word before holding him at gunpoint in a pursuit that now has the official facing the possibility of 10 years in prison.
A 911 call revealing the racial slur was made public Friday by the State Law Enforcement Division roughly an hour after Nisbet stood handcuffed before a judge to request bail on a charge of misconduct in office. He spoke only through his attorney, Grover Seaton III, and was granted a personal recognizance bond in the amount of $5,000.
In the weeks since the Aug. 25 incident, Nisbet denied using racial slurs during the encounter with his neighbor Leroy Fulton, a black man. The coroner told police that Fulton had pulled a gun on a man trying to repossess his pickup.
The 911 call, which was released by SLED in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Post and Courier, opens with the repo man reporting that a gun had been pulled on him.
The repo man turns the call over to Nisbet roughly 2 minutes and 15 seconds into the recording.
“There’s a repo guy across the street from my house that them damn (N-words) that live across the street and they’re trying to repo his truck. He pulled a gun on him and all kinds of (expletive) over here,” Nisbet told a dispatcher. “Y’all need to get over here.”
Nisbet later pursued his neighbor as the man drove away from the scene and held the man at gunpoint until police arrived. Additional video captured at the end of the chase was requested by the newspaper but has not yet been released.
The repo man, John Mauldin of Premier Recovery Services, later told police that he “had words” with Fulton, who then pulled a black handgun and said, “You can leave now or die. ... Better get out of here.”
In an arrest affidavit for Nisbet, a SLED agent wrote that the official was using a county vehicle at the time of the encounter. He unlawfully detained a driver “while armed with a firearm and while under the influence of alcoholic beverages,” according to the document.
Nisbet previously defended his actions in a Facebook post.
“That poor guy (the repo man) had a gun drawn on him, and I did what I had to do,” he said. “I’d rather have (SLED) investigate me than the murder of a hard-working young man.”
Neither Nisbet nor Fulton was arrested immediately after the incident. Despite smelling alcohol on Nisbet’s breath, officers returned his weapon and he was allowed to drive home. A warrant for his arrest was filed more than two weeks later.
Nisbet turned himself in to Dorchester County authorities shortly before his 4 p.m. bond hearing on the misconduct charge. The common-law offense carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Seaton argued during the hearing that Nisbet wasn’t a flight risk, and was “certainly no danger to the community.” The judge agreed, granting the personal recognizance bond.
After the release of the 911 recording, Seaton said in a phone call that he’s received numerous letters from people of varying ethnic backgrounds “supporting (Nisbet) on the fine things he’s done in life.”
“Let’s see how this plays out before we jump to conclusions,” Seaton said. “This case shouldn’t revolve around whether that word was used. ... I just think that’s totally inflammatory.”
The local National Action Network sent Gov. Nikki Haley a letter last month demanding she remove Nisbet, an elected official, from the office he has held for two decades. A spokesman for the governor referred questions about whether Haley would consider taking action against Nisbet to state law, which states the governor can only remove an official once he or she has been indicted.
The Rev. Nelson Rivers, whose signature was included on the letter addressed to the Governor’s Office, said Friday night that he hasn’t received a response in the time since the letter was sent.
He heard earlier in the week that “foul” and “racist” language uttered by Nisbet had been caught on video and audio recordings, he said.
“What (Nisbet) said on video about one of his constituents and a neighbor should be enough to prove that he’s not fit to serve in office,” Rivers said.
Rivers said that state officials in June offered “beautiful” words of unity and grace after nine black parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June. He questioned what actions have been taken since then to bring about sizable change that would continue to transform the state.
“If the coroner can conduct himself that way, is it the new South Carolina or the same old South Carolina? What he said, how he acted, his manner and his words sound to us like the same old South Carolina,” Rivers said.