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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A former South Carolina coroner is unapologetic over his usage of a racial slur toward a black neighbor, saying in a deposition filed in court this week as part of a federal lawsuit that he and other white officeholders are justified in using such language.

“I mean, that’s a personal preference,” Chris Nisbet said in a November 2016 deposition. “You can’t tell an elected official what to do. That’s the great thing about South Carolina, right?”

The statements by Nisbet, filed in federal court Wednesday as part of a civil rights lawsuit by his neighbor, come more than a year after Nisbet’s ouster as coroner of Dorchester County. A working phone number could not be found Thursday for Nisbet. In court filings of his own, attorneys for the former coroner have defended his actions, saying he has immunity from the allegations.

Nisbet, 48, was charged with misconduct after police said he pulled a gun on neighbor Leroy Fulton outside their homes one night in August 2015. Nisbet told authorities Fulton had used a gun to threaten another man who had arrived to repossess a vehicle.

The repo man, feeling threatened by Fulton, called 911. In the background of that call, Nisbet was heard using the N-word.

In body cam footage from an officer at the scene, Nisbet was also heard using a racial slur and other derogatory terms for blacks. Then-Gov. Nikki Haley suspended Nisbet from office shortly after the charge, and he resigned last year. The misconduct charge was later dropped.

Fulton filed a federal civil rights complaint against Nisbet, saying he felt threatened when the then-official got out of a county vehicle, pointed a gun at him and hurled racial epithets at him.

In his deposition, Nisbet told Fulton’s attorneys that using that kind of language depended on where and with whom.

“That’s not acceptable, and there’s probably policies out there,” he said, “but people do it.”


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This story corrects spelling of Nisbet in paragraph 3