CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A white former police chief in Eutawville, South Carolina, has been indicted on a murder charge in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man he was trying to arrest, according to records released on Thursday.
The indictment of ex-chief Richard Combs came on Wednesday, the Orangeburg County Clerk of Court said, on the heels of decisions by grand juries in New York City and Missouri not to indict white police officers involved in deaths of unarmed black men this year.
Combs fatally shot Eutawville resident Bernard Bailey, 54, in the town hall parking lot in May 2011 after they argued and scuffled over a traffic ticket previously issued to Bailey’s daughter.
Combs had already been indicted in August 2013 in connection with the shooting on a misconduct in office charge, with a grand jury finding that his use of deadly force was unjustified, according to court records.
The former chief has argued he shot Bailey in self defense, but a judge recently rejected his “Stand Your Ground” claim in the earlier case.
Wally Fayssoux, one of the lawyers representing Combs said Bailey put Combs in “an impossible situation,” adding “he had no choice.”
A trial is tentatively schedule for January, he said.
Solicitor David Pascoe, whose office is prosecuting the cases, declined to comment through a representative.
Carl Grant, the Bailey family’s lawyer, said they attended Combs’ court hearing on Thursday, where a judge ordered a $150,000 bail.
Grant said the prosecutor’s office had indicated more than a year ago that it was considering a murder charge against Combs, which Bailey’s family felt the case warranted.
“The family was simply looking for some sense of justice that represents what actually happened, in their mind,” Grant said. “This indictment for murder is not something the solicitor decided to do at the last minute or in light of today’s media.”
The murder indictment against Combs was issued on the same day that a New York City grand jury opted not to bring charges against a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man.
Last week, a grand jury in Missouri choose not to indict a white police officer in the killing of a black man there. The decision in that case sparked a rash of violence in Ferguson, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead, with businesses burned down and looted.
Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by David Adams and Sandra Maler