COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The family of a black man killed by police in South Carolina two years ago has sued, saying there is no clear evidence the 24-year-old man had a gun when he was shot by deputies.
The wrongful death suit by Shamir Palmer's relatives said the 26 shots fired by three white Dorchester County deputies — at least nine of them struck Palmer — were excessive.
Solicitor David Pascoe ruled the shooting justified, pointing out Palmer had drugs in his system, a violent criminal past and fired at state troopers trying to pull him over hours before the fatal shooting.
While dashboard camera footage didn't clearly show a gun in Palmer's hands just before he was shot, a weapon was found near Shamir and the officers are heard shouting "Gun!" just before the firing started, Pascoe said.
"This is an open and shut case. These officers are heroes," Pascoe said in a statement less than two months after the shooting.
But the family's lawyer, Carter Elliott, said he wants to talk to the deputies and others involved because he doesn't think the whole truth has come out.
"There are real strange circumstances — I'm just not seeing in the video what they say happened," Elliott said.
The case also was investigated by former Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet, who ruled Palmer's shooting and others in his county as "suicide by cop" — saying the men wanted to die. He has said police have no choice but to shoot at "known thugs" who endanger them.
Nisbet lost his job last year after he was charged with misconduct in office for pulling a gun on a black neighbor in a dispute. Nisbet was heard calling the neighbor a racial slur in the background of a 911 call and after the neighbor sued, defending using the N-word in a deposition that was made public.
The lawsuit, filed last week, does not name Nisbet. It seeks unspecified damages.
Dorchester County Sheriff's spokesman Maj. Tony Phinney said the agency doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.
Palmer's family marched at the sheriff's office shortly after Pascoe's decision. They sent letters to state officials asking for more investigations that have not happened.
During the protest, Palmer's uncle the Rev. Randy Simmons said the family vowed to fight for Palmer and endure sleepless nights until he gets justice.
"They, too, shall have sleepless nights and restless days until they blot out the corrupt mindset, they will never be free of their wrongdoing," Simmons said. "We can forgive but you must admit."
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