A former South Carolina police officer charged with murder in the death of an unarmed black motorist is suing a police association, saying the group failed to provide the legal representation he paid for under an insurance plan.
Attorneys for Michael Slager filed a breach of contract lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court in Charleston against the Southern States Police Benevolent Association.
The suit alleges Slager, who's charged in the slaying of Walter Scott, was never provided the legal representation he was entitled to under his policy's legal defense benefit.
The suit says that four days after Scott was shot in the back while running from a traffic stop last April, the association informed Slager it would not provide the benefits under the policy for which the former officer had paid $23.50 a month.
The association wrote Slager saying the policy had an exclusion clause and benefits would not be paid because the association had determined Slager "committed an intentional, deliberate and/or illegal act either civilly or criminally," the lawsuit says.
The suit alleges that in the days after the April 4 shooting the benevolent association conducted an investigation that was "cursory at best and conducted in bad faith for the purpose of denying coverage."
It added that representatives of the association did not interview Slager and that "whether Officer Slager acted criminally is the subject matter of the pending criminal charges against him."
The operator at the association's answering service said the agency was closed Wednesday for Veterans' Day. The association did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
The group's website says it is funded by membership dues and contributions and provides legal, disciplinary and other representation to more than 40,000 law enforcement officers in 11 states.
Scott, 50, was shot April 4 by Slager while trying to run from a traffic stop. A bystander recorded the shooting in dramatic cellphone video. The shooting inflamed the national debate about how blacks are treated by law officers.
Slager was indicted on a murder charge in June and a judge refused to set bond in September saying his release would "constitute an unreasonable danger to the community."
Slager faces from 30 years to life in prison without parole if he convicted and is expected to go to trial next year. There were no aggravating circumstances such as robbery or kidnapping, so the death penalty doesn't apply in the case, the local prosecutor has said.
Last month North Charleston City Council approved a $6.5 million civil settlement with Scott's family.