UPDATE: Former SC police chief facing retrial in killing of black man

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Monday, June 15, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A former small-town South Carolina police chief is set to stand trial anew this week in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man.

Richard Combs, the white former Eutawville police chief, is charged with murder in Bernard Bailey's death.

After Combs' indictment last December, the case drew comparisons to the shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of a black by police officers in New York City. Following trial in January, a jury in Orangeburg deadlocked.

Jury selection begins again Monday in Columbia, about 35 miles from Orangeburg.

The shooting happened after Combs tried to arrest Bailey on an obstruction of justice warrant prosecutors contend was trumped up. The defense said Combs fired in self-defense, caught in the door of Bailey's moving truck.

(Copyright 2015, The Associated Press)

News 12 at 11/ Thursday, December 4, 2014

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- It's a different outcome in one local town than in other parts of the country. A day after a New York Grand Jury decides not to indict an officer in a chokehold death, a white South Carolina cop is in court charged with the murder of an unarmed black man.

Prosecutors say Richard Combs was the Police Chief in Eutawville in Orangeburg County, South Carolina when he shot and killed 54-year-old Bernard Bailey in 2011.

There are mixed emotions in the small town. Many people are happy with the decision, but they're also upset people in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City aren't seeing the same results.

It's the same message we've seen in Ferguson and again in New York, but Thursday's protest in Orangeburg is for something that happened much closer to home.

"The people of Orangeburg County found there was probably cause and they indicted Richard Combs for murder," Bailey family attorney Carl Grant said.

Former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs is now an inmate in jail, indicted for the murder of Bernard Bailey by a Grand Jury Wednesday. But, the beginning of the story dates back to a night in 2011 when Bailey's daughter got a ticket for having a tail light out.

"She called her father to come out because she was a little concerned for her own personal safety," Grant said.

An argument between the father and officer turned heated, but ultimately everyone went home that night.

"Approximately two days later Mr. Combs decided that he would get a warrant for Mr. Bailey's arrest for obstructing justice," Grant said.

Bailey, however, didn't find that out until two months later when he went to Town Hall to pay his daughter's fine.

"Naturally Mr. Bailey was shocked and surprised and made a comment to the effect of 'You've got to be kidding me.' So, he walked out of Town Hall kind of quickly to try and get to his pick up truck," Grant told News 12.

It's as Bailey is trying to drive away that the details get fuzzy. The Bailey family attorney says Combs was partially in the truck as Bailey tried to drive away.

"Mr. Bailey cranked the pick up truck up, put it in revers,e and there's a debate as to how fast or how far the truck moved. Of course, a dead man can't talk," Grant said.

Chief Combs claims he felt threatened when the truck started moving, unholstered his gun and fired three shots, killing Bernard Bailey. Now, as a three year old case moves forward, protesters say this shooting is setting America back.

"I'm standing here right now protesting the same thing that my grandfather protested for," protester Juvaun Davis said. "It happened in 2011, right? Now it's 2014. I just wonder what took so long."

Combs attorney, John O'Leary, says timing is actually in the other side's favor and has more to do with shootings hundreds of miles away than the one just down the street.

"Trying to make it race because his timing is perfect. He's got all the national issues going on, so they want to drag him in and look what a great community we are here. We're gonna put a police officer who is doing his job in jail for thirty years. That's wrong. That's completely wrong," O'Leary said.

The trial was supposed to start December 8th, but Bailey's attorney says it will be rescheduled for sometime in January.

Bailey also addressed why, three years later, we are just now hearing about a murder indictment. He said it's because the Feds actually investigated first, and that took two years. When they handed it back over to the State and County, they ended up indicting Combs for Misconduct in Office last year. Combs then tried to file a "Stand Your Ground" hearing, saying his life was in danger, but a judge denied that two weeks ago. So, the Solicitor went forward with the murder charge.