Ex-cop charged in US killing of black man

2014-12-05 09:08
(Scott Olson, AFP)

(Scott Olson, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Orangeburg - A white former police chief here was indicted on murder charges in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man after an argument, a case that instantly drew comparisons to the Ferguson shooting and the chokehold death in New York.

The indictment of Richard Combs, the former chief and sole officer in the small town of Eutawville, was released on Thursday. He faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted in the death of Bernard Bailey.

Combs' lawyer accused prosecutors of taking advantage of national outrage toward police and the justice system to get the indictment.

"He's trying to make it racial because his timing is perfect," attorney John O'Leary said.

"He's got all the national issues going on, so they want to drag him in and say, look what a great community we are here, because we're going to put a police officer who was doing his job in jail for 30 years.

“That's wrong. That's completely wrong."

'Stand your ground'

Prosecutor David Pascoe said he had always planned to seek a murder charge if a judge threw out the former chief's "stand your ground" self-defense claim, which happened in November.

Combs, aged 38, had previously been charged with misconduct in office for the shooting. He had faced up to 10 years in prison.

The indictment is one of three this year for white officers in the shootings of unarmed black men in South Carolina, which has a dark and painful past of civil rights violence.

The shooting happened in May 2011. Bailey's daughter received a traffic ticket from the chief for a broken tail light and called her father to the scene. Bailey and Combs argued, but eventually went their separate ways.

The police chief got an arrest warrant for Bailey for obstruction. A few days later, Bailey went to Town Hall to argue about his daughter's ticket. When he showed up, the chief tried to arrest Bailey.

Prosecutors said Bailey marched back to his truck, and Combs tried to get inside to turn off the ignition. The two fought, and Combs shot Bailey, aged 54, twice in the chest.

Combs said he was tangled in Bailey's steering wheel and feared for his life if Bailey drove away. Last month, a judge threw out his self-defense claim and ruled Combs should have let Bailey leave.

Initially cleared

In March 2013, the justice department cleared Combs. Pascoe announced he would begin his own investigation and in August last year, a grand jury indicted Combs on the misconduct charge.

Combs' trial on the misconduct charge had been set to start next week, but after the murder indictment, a judge delayed it until at least January.

Combs' bail was set at $150 000. He is unemployed. He was placed on leave after the shooting, and the town let him go six months later.

In August, Bailey's family reached a $400 000 wrongful death settlement with Eutawville, which is outside Columbia.
Eutawville has about 300 residents, one-third of them black. Its main street has a hardware store, a pharmacy and medical supply store, and a number of empty storefronts.

Combs worked as a deputy for the Orangeburg county sheriff's office for six years before being fired in 2007 for "unsatisfactory performance", according to documents from the South Carolina criminal justice academy obtained by the post and courier of Charleston for a 2011 story.

Combs completed police chief's training in Eutawville just four days before the fatal shooting, the newspaper reported.
Read more on:    michael brown  |  us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.