ORANGEBURG - In three days, Doris Bailey will mourn the third anniversary of her husband's death.
She remembers the moment she found out Bernard, her husband of 25 years, was gone. Her boss had informed her he'd been killed, but she couldn't believe it and said she had to see for herself.
"We rode to Eutawville. I wasn't allowed to go near him, but I did recognized his truck and I realized it was him," she said. "It was such a shock. It's very hard to explain. It's like it wasn't real."
The 60-year-old mother of six has been struggling with the loss of her 54-year-old husband ever since and the circumstances surrounding his death. Bernard Bailey was fatally shot three times in May 2011 by Eutawville's former police chief, Richard Combs, according to authorities.
A year and a half after the Bailey family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the town, a settlement of $400,000 was reached this week, according to court records.
"It was a struggle and I don't know if there will ever be any real closure for us, but this helps," Doris Bailey said.
The town had denied liability following the filing of the suit in 2012, court records stated. Settlement negotiations began in March, according to court documents.
Patrick Frawley, a Lexington attorney representing the town, did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Initially, Combs also was named in the suit, but the Bailey family decided, based upon the law, the best approach was to only proceed with the suit against the town, according to their attorney Carl Grant.
"The past three years have been very hard," said Briana Bailey, one of Bernard's daughters. "Just not losing a father, but it seems like I lost everything, lost sight of everything."
Bernard Bailey and Combs crossed paths after Combs wrote Briana a traffic ticket for a tag light violation, Grant said. Briana called her father to the scene and Bernard Bailey and Combs argued, according to Grant.
"Bailey, no doubt, was loud and to some extent arguably disrespectful, but he never used any profanity toward Officer Combs," Grant said.
Combs filed for an obstruction of justice warrant but hadn't served it, according to prosecutors.
On May 2, 2011, a few days after Briana Bailey was stopped, her father went to Town Hall to speak to Combs about the ticket, and Combs tried to arrest him on the warrant, authorities said.
"Combs surprised Mr. Bailey with the warrant and Bailey exclaimed 'You've got to be kidding me' and he left," Grant said.
Bailey got into his truck as Combs chased him, according to prosecutors.
Combs jumped into the truck's open door as Bailey started to back out of the parking lot, prosecutors said.
Combs alleged he felt threatened as he dangled from the moving truck, according to 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe. Combs shot Bailey three times, twice in the chest and once in the shoulder, authorities said.
One of the shots fired was at point-blank range, according to prosecutors.
Despite the settlement, questions remain for Doris Bailey and her family.
"I asked that question over and over, 'Why?' There were a lot of whys? Why three shots? I don't understand that," Bailey said. "If he just wanted to stop him, one (shot) probably would have stopped him and that was a big question."
Briana Bailey wants to know why her father was shot at all?
"As an officer you're equipped with other things," she said. "You could have shot the tires if you wanted the car to stop."
There is still hope, however, for some insight.
The case against Combs, who was indicted on a charge of misconduct in office last year, remains pending.
Combs' indictment alleges he used excessive force against Bailey, according to authorities. If convicted, Combs faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Combs could not be reached for comment. He remains free on bail. In August, his attorney, John O'Leary, told a bond court judge he was living in Santee and was unemployed after losing his position with the police department.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
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