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Judge Declares Mistrial in SC Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Man, Tarnishing Hopes for Police Accountability

Bernard Bailey

Bernard Bailey

A South Carolina judge declared a mistrial on Tuesday in the case of a white former police chief who fatally shot an unarmed Black man back in 2011.

In the midst of the recent killings of unarmed Black men and the lack of police indictments for these killings, the case of Bernard Bailey served as a small gleam of hope for the Black community.

In May of 2011, former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs was charged after shooting Bernard Bailey three times.

Back in December, Combs was indicted on murder charges in Bailey’s death.

Unfortunately, the case only proved that getting an indictment doesn’t ensure that justice will be served when a white officer guns down a Black citizen.

After 12 hours of deliberation, the jury told Circuit Judge Edgar Dickinson that they were deadlocked and he declared a mistrial.

It’s a crushing blow to those who hoped the police officer would be held responsible for Bailey’s death.

Despite failing to convince three jurors that Combs was guilty, Prosecutor David Pascoe promises that the fight isn’t over just yet.

“I’m going to take a little time, but we’re going forward,” Pascoe said, according to the Associated Press.

Nine jurors had voted to convict Combs but three jurors didn’t feel comfortable with either option of murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux insists Combs is innocent but said both sides had to face a long week.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get a result, but I think both sides feel that way,” Fayssoux said.

Throughout the trial, Pascoe anchored his argument in his belief that Combs felt he was above the law and acted out of pride when he shot Bailey that day.

“He thought he got away with it because he wears a badge,” Pascoe said during trial. “Prove him wrong.”

Credit: Larry Hardy/Times & Democrat, via Associated Press

Credit: Larry Hardy/Times & Democrat, via Associated Press

The story behind the killing extends beyond the day of that tragic encounter.

It started when Bailey’s daughter was stopped by Combs for a broken taillight seven weeks before the deadly encounter.

Bailey received a call from his daughter and quickly made his way to the scene of the traffic stop.

It is unclear what happened during the traffic stop but Combs eventually obtained a warrant for obstruction of justice.

He waited several weeks to actually serve Bailey with that warrant.

It wasn’t until Bailey came to Town Hall the day before his daughter’s trial that Combs told Bailey he was under arrest for obstruction of justice.

Bailey walked away and headed for his truck as Combs followed behind him.

That’s when tragedy struck.

As Bailey was inside the truck, Combs fired three times and insisted he feared for his life and thought Bailey was going to run him over with his truck.

Prosecutors insisted that the evidence suggested Bailey’s foot was actually on the brake when Combs fired.

Combs did not have pepper spray or a Taser and says his only option was deadly force.

As Pascoe promises to keep fighting for justice for the Bailey family, the city has given the family $400,000 as a wrongful death settlement.


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