Family of man killed by police chief pledges to seek justice

Wally Fayssoux
Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Lacra Jenkins shows the jury a photograph of shooting victim Bernard Bailey’s truck on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, the first day of testimony in the trial of former Eutaville police chief Richard Combs for the murder of Bernard Bailey, in Orangeburg, S.C. (AP Photo/Times & Democrat, Larry Hardy)

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — Relatives of a Black man shot and killed by a White, small-town South Carolina police chief said Tuesday they will continue seeking justice for their loved one after a judge declared a mistrial in the former officer’s murder trial.
Jurors deliberated for 12 hours before telling Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson about 2 a.m. Tuesday that they were deadlocked and could not reach a verdict.
Former Eutawville (yoo-TAH-vill) Police Chief Richard Combs was charged after shooting Bernard Bailey three times in May 2011.
In a statement released by family attorney Carl Grant, relatives said they “are not dissuaded from our unswerving pursuit of justice for Bernard Bailey.”
They added, “We thank those who have sincerely displayed the courage and continued dedication needed to ensure that justice is for all in this case.”
Prosecutor David Pascoe said he will evaluate his case but plans to try Combs again.
“I’m going to take a little time, but we’re going forward,” Pascoe said.
Pascoe said nine jurors voted to convict Combs. “We just had three jurors we couldn’t convince,” he said.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get a result, but I think both sides feel that way,” said defense attorney Wally Fayssoux, who had argued that Combs shot Bailey in self-defense.
The shooting happened as Combs was trying to arrest Bailey on an obstruction of justice warrant that prosecutors contended was trumped up. The defense said the shooting had nothing to do with race and argued Combs fired when caught in the door of Bailey’s moving truck.
Throughout the trial, Fayssoux always called Combs “chief.”
“The chief was in an impossible position. He made the only decision he could make,” he said.
Pascoe called Combs as “the defendant,” called his fired bullets “kill shots” and suggested he was a disgrace to other officers.
“The system breaks down when you have rogue police officers gunning down unarmed men,” Pascoe said.
After the mistrial was declared, Pascoe quietly talked to Bailey’s family who did not speak with reporters. Several wiped away tears as they walked out after spending 16 straight hours in the Orangeburg County courthouse.
Combs showed little reaction and did not talk to reporters.
The jurors faced a choice between murder and voluntary manslaughter. Murder carries 30 years to life in prison without parole. Voluntary manslaughter carries two to 30 years in prison, and would have meant Bailey’s killing was illegal but happened in the heat of the moment.
Seven weeks before the shooting, Combs had stopped Bailey’s daughter for a broken taillight. She, in turn, phoned her father to come to the side of the road.
Later the chief secured a warrant for obstruction of justice, but waited several weeks to serve it until Bailey came to Town Hall the day before his daughter’s trial. Pascoe asserted Combs wanted to make a display of arresting Bailey.
After Combs told Bailey he was being arrested for obstruction, witnesses said Bailey left Combs’ office and went to his truck with Combs following.
Pascoe said Combs could have stepped away from the truck but instead stood and fired three shots into Bailey. The prosecutor said the truck was stopped and Bailey was trying to give up.
But Combs’ lawyer said all that mattered was that the chief feared for his life during the three seconds it took to shoot. He said Combs had no pepper spray or Taser and no option but his gun.
Eutawville suspended Combs after the shooting and dismissed him several months later. The town reached a $400,000 wrongful death settlement with Bailey’s family.
Although Combs is White and Bailey was Black, race was not the focus of the trial. Pascoe contended Combs was angry at Bailey for trying to show him up.
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