Did Bernard Bailey have to die?

After a storm blew through Eutawville on Wednesday, Briana Bailey came to her father's grave behind Springfield Missionary Baptist Church to straighten up the flowers from his funeral a few days earlier. Bernard Bailey was shot and killed outside the Orangeburg County town's offices and police department on May 2, reportedly by the town's police chief Rick Combs.

EUTAWVILLE — Frustration is rising in this small Orangeburg County town in the wake of a police shooting in the Town Hall parking lot that left a father of two dead last week.

Friends of 54-year-old Bernard Bailey say the retired corrections officer was killed by the town’s new police chief during a dispute over a traffic ticket. Bailey was shot twice in the chest and once in the shoulder, according to county Coroner Samuetta Marshall.

Townspeople have become angry and frustrated about the dearth of information released in the case. No official account of the May 2 incident has been released and town officials won’t even talk about the shooting while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates.

More than 500 people packed a church this week to discuss the shooting with state NAACP officials. State NAACP President Lonnie Randolph said he too is troubled by the incident and reports that Bailey was unarmed, but he urged people to remain patient while investigators do their job.

“It’s unfortunate for Mr. Bailey’s family, for the community and for South Carolina that this tragic event took place,” Randolph said. “But we need to let the process run its course.”

Many who knew Bailey say he was a peaceful, soft-spoken man who avoided confrontation. They can’t comprehend what could have led Police Chief Rick Combs to use deadly force against him. Combs, who has been placed on paid leave, is the town’s fourth chief in the past year.

For more on this story, pick up Sunday’s print edition of The Post and Courier.