On the same day a New York City grand jury declined to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing unarmed black man Eric Garner (and not even two weeks after Michael Brown shooter Darren Wilson escaped indictment), a South Carolina grand jury took the other path. Richard Combs, the ex-police chief of Eutawville, was charged with murder yesterday in the 2011 shooting death of 54-year-old Bernard Bailey, the AP reports. Combs had already been indicted in August 2013 for misconduct in office and had tried to use the "stand your ground" defense at that trial a few weeks ago to explain why he had tussled with, then killed Bailey—who had come to town hall to contest his daughter's broken-taillight ticket—in the parking lot, but the judge in that case denied him that argument, USA Today reports; that denial led to the path for this indictment.
Combs, who was put on leave after shooting Bailey and released from service six months later, says that after arguing with Bailey inside, he followed Bailey out to his truck to serve him with an obstruction of justice warrant; he then says Bailey tried to drive away, they struggled and Combs got caught in the steering wheel. He says he shot Bailey twice in the chest because he feared he'd die if Bailey drove away, the AP notes. The judge in the misconduct trial noted that the "stand your ground" law in South Carolina can only be applied when not on one's personal property under strict conditions, and he didn't think Combs met those conditions, the Times and Democrat reports. "There was no need for Mr. Combs to act as he did," the judge's order states. "Mr. Combs should have allowed Mr. Bailey to leave and enlisted the assistance of other officers or serve the warrant at court as originally planned."