Eutawville to get new police chief

Wesley Cook

Provided

EUTAWVILLE -- After months of silence, Mayor Jean Akers confirmed Thursday that a new police chief has been selected to replace the man who fatally shot a local resident during a May confrontation.

Akers finally agreed to speak to a reporter after not returning numerous phone calls from The Post and Courier over the past seven months. She confirmed that town police Sgt. Wesley Cook will be promoted to chief in December, but she refused to answer any questions about the move.

When asked how and when the town parted ways with former Chief Ricky Combs, Akers said, "Good day sir" and hung up the phone.

Akers and other town officials have said little about their tiny police department since 54-year-old Bernard Bailey was shot during a May 2 confrontation with Combs in the parking lot of Town Hall.

The former correctional officer was shot three times, and his friends have said the shooting apparently stemmed from a dispute over a traffic ticket issued to one of Bailey's daughters.

Authorities have said next to nothing about how the shooting transpired or what prompted the decision to use deadly force. Combs was placed on administrative leave while the State Law Enforcement Division investigated the shooting, with assistance from the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office.

That investigation has dragged on for months and no one seems sure when it will wrap up. SLED has reportedly finished its work, and the case is being reviewed by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Neither agency would offer a prediction on when that process would be completed.

The Orangeburg Times and Democrat reported this week that Cook, 28, will take the helm of the police department when he returns from a leave of absence he began in early 2010. Cook has been working with private contractors in Afghanistan but has maintained his police certification by working shifts during visits to Eutawville, the newspaper reported.

It remains unclear whether Combs resigned or was fired. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.