White cop gets house arrest for killing unarmed Black father

Former Police Chief Richard Combs (left), and Eutawville resident Bernard Bailey. (Orangeburg County Detention Center and Bailey Family Photo)
Former Police Chief Richard Combs (left), and Bernard Bailey. (Source for Combs’ photo: Orangeburg County Detention Center; Bernard Bailey photo courtesy of Bailey family)

For people who don’t think that White cops get off easy for killing unarmed Black suspects, look no further than Eutawville, South Carolina. It was there that former Police Chief Richard Combs killed unarmed Bernard Bailey over a traffic ticket in 2011.

Bailey was upset over a traffic ticket issued to his daughter and tried to resolve the matter, but Combs took exception to Bailey’s efforts. According to court records, Bailey went to the Eutawville Town Hall and protested when Combs told him he was under arrest for obstruction of justice. It was then that Bailey left and got into his pickup and drove away and Combs pursued him. When Bailey pulled Combs over, he stated that he leaned into the car to confront Bailey and Bailey tried to drive off. Combs stated that since he did not have pepper spray or a stun gun, he decided to use lethal force and shot Bailey three times, killing him.

Combs had two jury trials, resulting in a hung jury both times. In the first trial the jury voted 9-3 to convict Combs of murder. In the second trial the jury voted 8-4 to convict Combs of murder, with four wanting to convict him of murder, four wanting to convict of voluntary manslaughter and four who thought he was not guilty. Combs was facing 30 years to life imprisonment for the killing of Bailey.

On Tuesday of this week, instead of pursuing a third trial, prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charge if Combs consented to one year of home detention and five years probation for misconduct in office. The deal Combs was offered and accepted shocked and dismayed the Bailey family. The family settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the small town of 300 for $400,000 but never expected Combs to escape the repercussions of killing their loved one.

Combs was facing 10 years in prison on the misconduct charge but Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson suspended the sentence as long as Combs completed his home detention and probation.

“My client is financially and emotionally exhausted He has to completely start over. He was branded a racist all of that wasn’t true,” said Combs’ lawyer, Wally Fayssoux.

Combs, a former Marine, will never be a police officer again and was one of four police officers facing felonies for on-duty shootings in South Carolina.

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