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Mistrial Declared in Case of White Police Chief Who Killed Black Man

A South Carolina jury deliberating whether to find an ex-police chief guilty of murder in the death of an unarmed black man was deadlocked early Tuesday — forcing the judge to declare a mistrial. The jury took 12 hours before it told a circuit judge that it failed to agree on whether to find Richard Combs, 38, guilty of murder or a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, NBC affiliate WIS-TV reported. Prosecutor David Pascoe said he would seek to try Combs again after nine out of the 12 jurors wanted to find Combs guilty. "Couldn't have gotten that much better than it did — we just had three jurors we needed to convince," said Pascoe, according to WIS-TV.

Combs — the former police chief of Eutawville, a tiny town in between Columbia and Charleston — shot Bernard Bailey three times. Bailey, 54, was arguing his daughter's traffic ticket at Town Hall when he got into a confrontation with Combs, who tried to arrest the retired prison guard on an obstruction of justice charge. As Bailey got into his pickup truck to leave, Combs followed him into the car, where the shooting occurred. The case has gained renewed attention following the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York. Defense attorneys have said the shooting had nothing to do with race, and Combs feared for his life.

Image: Family handout photo of Bernard Bailey
Bernard Bailey is seen in this family photo released by The Times and Democrat publication. Richard Combs, a white former police chief in Eutawville, South Carolina, has been indicted on a murder charge in the 2011 shooting death of Bailey, the unarmed black man he was trying to arrest, according to records released on Dec. 4, 2014. HANDOUT / Reuters

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— Erik Ortiz