A white former South Carolina police chief was sentenced Tuesday to one year of home detention for the 2011 fatal shooting of an unarmed black man. Richard Combs will not serve prison time as prosecutors dropped a murder charge against him. Combs, instead, pled guilty to misconduct in office.
Combs shot Bernard Bailey, a 54-year-old former prison guard, thrice in May 2011 after they squabbled over a traffic ticket issued to Bailey’s daughter. The police department of Eutawville town suspended Combs after the shooting and dismissed him from work several months later.
Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson handed down a suspended sentence of 10 years in jail as long as he serves detention and five years of probation, according to reports. Combs has faced the murder trial twice, but both ended with hung juries, the Associated Press reported.
"In my 20-plus years as a prosecutor, I don’t know that I have had a more polarizing case,” prosecutor David Pascoe said Tuesday, according to Reuters. He said he was planning to get a third trial against Combs before the police chief’s attorney approached him about a plea deal.
Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux reportedly told the court: “No one will ever win this. Everybody has suffered tremendously on both sides of it.” Fayssoux also added that Combs did not plan to work as a cop again.
Had he been convicted of murder, Combs would have faced 30 years to life in prison. Combs’ case was among the several police killings of black men across the country that triggered massive "Black Lives Matter" protests.