After 12 hours of deliberation early Tuesday morning, jurors declined to indict a former South Carolina police chief who shot and killed a man in May 2011.
The judge declared a mistrial at about 2 a.m. after three of the 12 jurors could not be convinced that Richard Combs should be convicted of murder, the Associated Press reported.
Combs was head of the Eutawville Police Department at the time and charged with shooting Bernard Bailey three times, which resulted in the man’s death. Combs was attempting to execute an obstruction of justice warrant when he claims he shot Bailey in self-defense.
Combs’ defense claims he fired his gun in fear for his life only after his hand got stuck in the door of Bailey’s truck. Bailey’s truck was moving at the time and the defense contends that he was trying to use his Chevrolet Silverado as a weapon, the New York Times reported.
“The chief was in an impossible position. He made the only decision he could make,” said Bailey’s attorney, Wally Fayssoux.
The prosecution called the warrant trumped up and claims Combs didn’t have to fire his gun at Bailey.
“The system breaks down when you have rogue police officers gunning down unarmed men,” said prosecutor David Pascoe.
The Associated Press reported that the obstruction claim came when Combs pulled over Bailey’s daughter just seven weeks before the shooting. His daughter then called him to the scene where Bailey allegedly interfered in the stop, which was the result of a broken taillight.
Combs didn’t arrest Bailey at the time, but filed for a warrant, which he didn’t attempt to serve until more than month after the traffic stop, the New York Times reported. When Combs saw Bailey at the Eutawville Town Hall – where Bailey’s daughter was ordered to appear for the traffic stop – he attempted to arrest Bailey on the obstruction of justice warrant. Bailey resisted and left the building, with Combs following behind, the Associated Press reported.
Bailey’s relatives said they would not be dissuaded by the outcome of the trial and planned on pursuing Combs again in court.