Police Abuse

Mistrial in Richard Combs Trial, Police Chief Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Man Trying to Leave Town Hall

Richard Combs shot Bernard Bailey in Eutawville, South Carolina, the jury deadlocked on murder and manslaughter charges.


Bernard Bailey
family photo

A jury was dead-locked, 9 to 3 in favor of convicting on either a murder or voluntary manslaughter charge against Richard Combs, the former police chief of Eutawville, South Carolina, who shot and killed Bernard Bailey while Bailey was trying to leave Town Hall in 2011. Bailey had come to argue a broken tail light ticket his daughter had received, and Combs apparently tried to put handcuffs on him when Bailey was already in his truck trying to leave the parking lot. That's when Combs said he feared for his life and shot Bailey in the chest.

The FBI declined to press charges. State prosecutors pursued an official misconduct charge and filed murder charges after Combs' stand your ground claim was dismissed. The voluntary manslaughter charge was added in the last week, carrying a sentence of up to 30 years in prison instead of at least 30 for murder. The jury deadlocked after 12 hours. The State reports:

The jury, with seven black members and five white members, had begun deliberating around 2:30 p.m. Over the course of nearly 12 hours, its members asked for legal definitions for murder, manslaughter and malice, asked to see a police video of a traffic stop and asked to hear an emergency call made by former Police Chief Richard Combs made about one minute after he shot Bernard Bailey to death…

Combs acknowledged that he shot Bailey – whom he had just placed under arrest – as Bailey started backing his truck out of a parking spot to leave the scene.

But the jury mulled two conflicting views of the situation, shared during roughly three hours of closing arguments Monday.

Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux said Combs only fired at Bailey as a last resort, in fear for his life after the chief found himself caught in Bailey's Chevrolet pickup truck door and falling as Bailey backed out, apparently resisting arrest. At the time, Combs was trying to put handcuffs on Bailey.

"The chief doesn't have to wait until the wheel goes across him before he fires in self-defense," Fayssoux told the jury.

But 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe told the jury that Combs was a "rogue cop" who, nursing a grudge against Bailey, had plotted for five weeks to create a situation whereby Bailey, an assistant Wal-Mart manager and former prison guard, likely would become flustered and try to leave Town Hall.

Law and order itself is at stake in this case, Pascoe told the jury.

"The system breaks down when you have rogue police officers gunning down an unarmed man," Pascoe said, adding an argument of self-defense doesn't apply in Combs' case. "If you are going to take a human life and get away with it, you have to be completely without fault. You have to have clean hands."

Pascoe says he will try to try the case again. Combs had been previously terminated from the county sheriff's office for "unsatisfactory performance."


NEXT: Why You Should Care That Trial of Ross Ulbricht, Accused of Running Silk Road, Begins Today

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


  2. Our brave, brave Heroes in Blue, keeping society safe from the scourge of broken tail lights.

    1. Or the scourge of what they mistakenly think is one. Same difference.

      1. He was trying to handcuff the guy while he was driving and shoots him because he might get run over?

  3. So of the 3 who voted to acquit, how many are former law enforcement, or families thereof?

  4. So they have a prosecutor actually, no shit trying to convict a murderous cop, and it still ends up with a hung jury and no conviction.

    The police couldn’t get away with what they do if there wasn’t a portion of the population who will excuse anything they do. This is a significant part of the police problem that exists today.

    1. It’s only a few bad apples.

      I’m so fucking sick of that sentiment. No, GOOD COPS ARE THE EXCEPTION. Morons.

      1. And the fact that the aphorism is “A few bad apples spoil the bunch.” The existence of a few bad cops means that all cops are bad.

        1. Any good cop that rats out a bad cop will find themselves totally alone. No one will work with them and no one will respond to calls for backup. So good cops do exist. Until they are forced out.

  5. Bailey, Fayssoux said, put the chief “in the impossible position of deciding whether he wanted to go home and see his family or being run over by Mr. Bailey’s truck.”

    There. There it is. Can there ever be a police shooting without the “Going home safe to his family” canard?

    1. “in the impossible position of deciding whether he wanted to go home and see his family…

      Maybe cops shouldn’t be allowed to have families or children or spouses, since they all seem to tip the scale in favor of the police killing unarmed citizens.

    2. Well, it wasn’t like his mistress could come to his hospital bedside.

    3. When I start a police department we will only accept applications from celibate orphans, and anybody who even mentions having a family at home will be summarily fired.

      (Homeless people with families will be considered on a case-by-case basis.)

  6. I wonder how much, if any, time was given to consideration of the legality/propriety of the arrest.

    In P Brooks -topia, lethal force in resistance to an illegal or improper arrest attempt would be a slam dunk self defense claim.

    1. Would you allow the person who was being illegally arrested to use the excuse of “I just wanted to make it home safely to my family” as an excuse for using lethal force against a LEO?

      I would be totally down with that. Mostly because I’d like to hear the cops try to justify why that excuse is different.

      1. It used to be that way, but things have changed.

        1. Who made you king of P Brooks-topia?

          Let the man speak for himself, Sarc. Or better yet, go get your own -topia to rule.

          1. You can stop sucking his dick now.

            1. Brooks-topia is fully supportive of alternative lifestyles. In fact he sort of insists on a minimum level of dick sucking there.

              Either suck dick or pay taxes. Well, I ain’t got no money so …

      2. They would openly tell you that cops are a superior class who are entitled to extra rights, priviledges and immunities compared to the serfs they rule. Cops are quite open about embracing a double standard which elevates them over the peons.

  7. Better a thousand innocents die than one officer fail to go home to his family.

  8. put the chief “in the impossible position of deciding whether he wanted to go home and see his family or being run over by Mr. Bailey’s truck.”

    Or he could, you know, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY.

  9. What a loathsome piece of shit.

    But Pascoe reminded the jury of an earlier incident, five weeks before Bailey’s death, telling the jurors they couldn’t just look at the few seconds when the shooting took place to evaluate the incident. On March 15, 2011, Bailey showed up at a traffic stop where Combs had pulled over Bailey’s daughter, Briana, for a broken taillight.

    Although a video played to the jury showed some brief, possibly tense exchanges between Bailey and Combs that night, there was no clearly overt menacing action by Bailey.

    Five weeks later, when Bailey showed up unexpectedly at Town Hall to ask whether his daughter’s traffic court date for the broken taillight could be moved because she was away at college, Combs surprised him with an arrest warrant for obstruction of justice for the night of the traffic stop.

    Bailey walked out of Town Hall with Combs walking behind him, saying, “Sir, stop, you are under arrest.” Combs followed Bailey to his truck and then, as Bailey jumped in his pickup, started it up and put it in gear, the shots rang out.

    1. Looks like revenge to me. Which is pretty normal for cops.

    2. Contempt of cop.

    3. Yep, pretty loathsome. How dare he ignore and turn his back to an officer of the LAW, this veritable hero standing as the last bulwark against the forces who would destroy civilization!

    4. Once again, there was a dipshit judge involved in the story.

      It takes a dipshit judge to issue a warrant, and for some reason the dipshit judge’s culpability in the affair gets overlooked.

  10. “He’d be alive if he had just obeyed,” Tulpa whispered into his own asshole.

    1. Yep. That’s the mantra of cops and their fellators everywhere. Obey or die. That’s what it means to be free.

  11. Caught in the door and falling, yet still able to draw and fire.

    That’s some trick.

  12. “The FBI declined to press charges. State prosecutors pursued an official misconduct charge and filed murder charges…”

    That can’t be right. Eric Holder told me that the Feds are going to stamp out the racism inherent in the states.

  13. Just remembered this the other day. Fucking brilliant and a SURE HIT with the reason commentariat:


    Kids in the Hall…

  14. Good thing for him those of us on this comment section were not the Jurors. He would have fried.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.