Ex-Police Chief Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Black Man Sentenced to House Arrest

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Richard Combs; Bernard Bailey
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Richard Combs; Bernard Bailey
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Former Eutawville, S.C., Police Chief Richard Combs pleaded guilty to "misconduct in office" Tuesday in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man who made the fatal mistake of arguing with Combs over his daughter's traffic ticket.

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According to the Associated Press, under a plea deal, Combs, who could have faced up to 10 years in prison, was sentenced to one year of home detention. Combs was tried twice before taking the plea deal, and in both instances, the trial ended in a hung jury.

In 2011, The State reports, Bernard Bailey, 54, and Combs argued during a traffic stop involving Bailey's daughter. Other officers would later testify that Bailey did not interfere with Combs' issuing Bailey's daughter the ticket. However, in the aftermath of the traffic stop, when Bailey went to Town Hall to seek a change in the court hearing date on the ticket for his daughter, since she was away at college, he was shocked to learn that "Combs [had gone] to a magistrate and [sworn] out a warrant for obstruction of justice, a charge that carries up to 10 years in prison," according to The State.

Bailey was attempting to leave Town Hall when Combs reportedly opened the door to Bailey's truck and attempted to pull the key out of the ignition. A struggle ensued and Combs shot Bailey twice in the chest.

The prosecution argued that Combs was the aggressor and that the situation didn't require lethal force. The defense argued that Combs didn't have a Taser or pepper spray and was in fear for his life, leaving him no other option.

According to AP, Combs was suspended and then dismissed some months later, and Bailey's family received $400,000 after a wrongful death settlement was reached.

Eutawville is a small town with only 300 people and is 50 miles southeast of Columbia, S.C. At the time of the 2011 shooting, Combs was the only officer in Eutawville, AP reports.

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Read more at the Associated Press and The State.

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