Widow of Eutawville man killed by police chief files lawsuit

Bystanders look on near the scene of the shooting.
Bystanders look on near the scene of the shooting.

EUTAWVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The wife of a Eutawville man fatally shot by the town's police chief in May 2011 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the case.

Doris Bailey, the widow of Bernard Bailey, filed the lawsuit against the Eutawville Police Department, the Town of Eutawville, and its former Chief of Police Richard Combs Monday at the Orangeburg County Courthouse.

According to the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office, 54-year-old Bernard Bailey was shot and killed by Combs in the 200 block of Porcher Avenue in front of the town hall on May 2, 2011.

According to town residents, Bailey went to the town hall to pay a water bill and to inquire about a traffic ticket his daughter had received. At some point while Bailey was in front of the town hall, he was shot and killed by Combs, according to deputies.

Doris Bailey's attorney said Monday, "It has been seventeen months since this most tragic incident occurred. It is time that this case is brought to court so that the thirst for the truth can be quenched, and the hunger for justice can be satisfied."

Combs was placed on administrative leave immediately following the incident, and a few months later, on Nov. 1, 2011, he was terminated from the department.

Prior to working with Eutawville, the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy said Combs worked with the Elloree Police Department. Before that he was with the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office. The academy said he was terminated from Orangeburg County.

According to a report released by the academy, Combs was terminated by the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office for violation of agency policy not involving misconduct, good character or moral turpitude.

The report goes on to state that examples of this type of termination include, "substandard performance, excessive absenteeism, sleeping on duty, etc."

Bernard Bailey was a retired corrections officer from a state facility in Dorchester County.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections said Bailey worked at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville for 22 years. The facility is a level three, all male facility that maintains death row for the entire state.

Friends and family said Bailey was well-respected in the small town because he was a hard worker. They say after retiring as a corrections officer, he managed a Walmart in Summerville.

"We can't find jobs, but he wasn't one of those. He was educated. He has a family. He did everything right. I don't understand what's happened," family friend Carol Gibbs said.

The State Law Enforcement Division took over the investigation at the request of the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office shortly following the investigation.

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