Many of our donors and supporters know of the saga of former police chief Rick Combs, who, in May 2011 attempted to arrest a wanted man who came into the police chief’s office. When informed of the arrest warrant, the man stormed out, chased by Rick Combs, who was calling for back-up to help him.
The subject got into and started his pickup truck, successfully putting it in reverse and starting to move, while the chief tried to reach in and keep the larger man from escaping. The chief was caught in the worst possible place – wedged between the open door and frame of a moving pickup truck driven by a determined, wanted man. As the truck began moving, the chief was left with a fateful decision that would forever change several lives. Fearing he’d be drug by or under the wheels of the pickup, he drew his weapon and fired, killing the driver.
Despite South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and FBI investigations that led to no charges against him, a local solicitor ignored the criminal actions of the 6’7”, 260 pound Bernard Bailey and opted to charge Rick with Misconduct in Office.
For three years, the local prosecutor did little to move the case forward. Then, after the anti-cop sentiment that grew from the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014, the prosecutor demanded the chief plead guilty immediately or face a murder indictment. That’s right – a misconduct in office charge was going to become a murder case because of politics in America.
The prosecutor quickly made good on his threat when Rick Combs refused to bow to his legal overreach. And then the next rush to judgment began. Rick was indicted for murder in late 2014 and was tried in January 2015. Not surprisingly, several jurors followed their oath by holding firm to their beliefs and the judge declared a mistrial when those jurors refused to convict. The prosecutor decided to try again and took Rick to a second trial in June 2015, with the same result – jurors who refused to buy into the solicitor’s flawed arguments. One would have thought justice had prevailed after two stinging losses for the politician/prosecutor. But he prosecutor now threatened yet another trial of a man whose financial reserves were long emptied. Even with LELDF financial support totaling well over $100,000, Rick simply couldn’t pay for a third trial defense and he agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor Misconduct in Office charge in September 2015.
This posting is not about just Rick Combs. It’s about YOU, the LELDF supporter. Hundreds of you donated to support Rick. And hundreds more sent notes of support. And now it’s Rick’s turn to thank YOU for that incredible support. Depicted here is Rick with cases full of those notes. This is why we at LELDF do this work. Thank you to anyone who helped us fund Rick’s defense and who sent Rick a note that did, and still does, buoy his spirits and ours!