Vigil to be held for man controversially slain by Eutawville police chief

Published: May. 1, 2013 at 2:23 PM EDT|Updated: May. 1, 2013 at 6:51 PM EDT
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Bystanders look on near the scene of the shooting in May 2011.
Bystanders look on near the scene of the shooting in May 2011.

EUTAWVILLE, SC (WCSC) - A prayer vigil will be held on Wednesday night for the man controversially slain by a Eutawville police chief two years ago outside town hall.

The East Orangeburg Ministerial Alliance is holding the vigil at The Historic Church of the Epiphany, located at 211 Epiphany Road, at 7 p.m.

Bernard Bailey, 54, was shot dead by former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs 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 the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office. Investigators said Bailey was shot three times as he tried to drive away, with Combs saying he was trapped between Bailey's truck and another vehicle's door.

Combs was placed on administrative leave at the time of the shooting, and was later terminated that year.

Federal investigators decided not to file any charges in connection with the incident earlier this year, which dismayed Carl B. Grant, the attorney representing Bailey's family.

Grant said Combs was heard saying racial epithets to Bailey when he fired shots. When asked about the feds' ruling, Grant said "any fair-minded person can smell the putrid, gut-wrenching smell of injustice when it enters the room."

While feds closed their investigation, Solicitor David Pascoe said he was leading an investigation by the First Circuit Solicitor's Office.

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 said after retiring as a corrections officer, he managed a Walmart in Summerville.

Copyright 2013 WCSC.  All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.