Police Abuse

S.C. Cop Indicted on Murder Charge for Fatal 2011 Shooting Prosecutors Say He Was the Aggressor In


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Richard Combs was the police chief of Eutawville, South Carolina, and the small town's only cop in 2011 when he shot and killed Bernard Bailey after an alleged altercation outside the Town Hall. Combs had tried to arrest Bailey for "obstruction of justice" after the man came to argue about a ticket for a broken tail light his daughter received. The cop followed Bailey to his truck and tried to prevent him from getting away. He says he got his arm stuck in the truck's steering wheel and feared for his life if Bailey drove way when he shot him fatally twice  in the chest.

In 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided there were no civil rights violations. State investigators followed into Eutawville and decided Combs was the aggressor and shouldn't have escalated the situation. Last August he was charged with official misconduct. State prosecutors wanted to charge him with murder but had to wait until a judge dismissed a stand your ground claim, which was dismissed last week. The trial for official misconduct, which comes with up to a 10 year sentence, was supposed to start next week. But prosecutors secured an indictment on the murder charge. They wanted to start the murder trial next week but the judge has postponed it to January given the new charges.

Predictably, Combs lawyer blames the new (but long anticipated) murder charge on racial motivations. "He's trying to make it racial," Combs' lawyer said of the prosecutor in the case. "He's got all the national issues going on."

Combs is white and Bailey was black. The Obama administration was in charge when the DOJ decided there wasn't enough evidence for a civil rights violation, and the South Carolina state government is Republican. As this case appears to move closer to a fair resolution in the justice system, it's an important reminder that things aren't always so, uh, black and white.

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  1. Good to see that a black person can get justice in the civilized parts of the country. Too bad places like New York City still think it is 1855 in this country. How long are we going to wait before we do something about those backward redneck motherfuckers up there?

    1. South Carolina, run by Republicans, indicts a white cop for killing a black guy, and two black Dems (Obama and Holder) don't seek indictment?


    2. You got to love the disconnect between how progressives see themselves vs what they actually do. They really seem to go out of their way to fuck black people hard, and yet in their minds they are the open-minded tolerant people, while everyone else is just a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.

      1. Well, stop calling them "progressives" - they are regressive! They are also not "liberals". They don't believe in liberty, they are leftists , and they hide behind lies and words. Start denying them the cover of words to hide the truth.

  2. So we average, what, three stories a day here on Reason about people who were shot in _questionable_ circumstances by police, presumably ignoring the other cases where the victim was standing on the roof of his car, holding an MP5 and a sawed off shotgun yelling, "You won't take me alive, coppers!" while firing into the air.

    And we're to believe that there are only 400 killings by police a year, in a country of some 360,000,000 people.

    400 killings where in towns of a police force of literally one, they still manage to kill people for broken taillights.

    I have to believe the number of people killed (in all circumstances, questionable or not) must be well into the four figures.

    1. Agreed, the number is definitely over 1000 even using conservative estimates...more than half never even make it into the books. Shameful.

  3. "Last August he was charged with official misconduct. State prosecutors wanted to charge him with murder but had to wait until a judge dismissed a stand your ground claim, which was dismissed last week."

    It was a self-defense immunity claim, not a stand your ground claim. Yes, the press routinely gets this wrong, but Reason writes about enough of these stories they should get it right.

  4. Funny, just the other day, someone tried to suss out if my position on police brutality was influenced by growing up in the south. He was assuming, of course, that police brutality and racism are worse in the south. Pretty ironic, considering he is a born & bred Californian.

    South Kakalak FTW, this time.

    1. I occasionally get that nonsense too because I am a Southerner living in the Northeast. I like to point out how most of the race riots in the 60's were in the North, and then ask the smug yankee why that was.

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  7. This should happen much more often and not take nearly as long.

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