Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- An attorney for ex-Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs said Monday the charges against his client are "politically motivated."
Combs is facing the charge of misconduct in office after the 2011 shooting of Bernard Bailey near the Eutawville Police Station.
"It was local political pressure," John O'Leary said. Mr. O'Leary represents Combs in the criminal case pending against him. "It's a prominent family and the family of the deceased is very, very nice. His brother's a minister in the area, and I think that public outcry resulted in this misconduct charge."
The indictment alleges the former chief was "unlawful" in his use of deadly force in the shooting. O'Leary believes the charge is misguided.
"Based upon being a retired law enforcement officer and a trainer for years, I don't think the force used was excessive based upon the facts as I see them," O'Leary said.
O'Leary served as Executive Director of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy from 1983 to 1988, according to his website.
O'Leary said the facts show his client didn't use excessive force. He points out that Bailey went to the police station that day to resolve a dispute centering around a traffic ticket. Upon seeing Bailey, Combs then attempted to execute an arrest warrant, at which point Bailey left the police station.
"The man resisted. The man went to the car, got in the car, and the officer tried to remove him from the car. [Bailey] started backing [the car] up, the door hits the officer, the officer starts to fall and at that point there was shooting," O'Leary said.
But the Bailey's family attorney, Carl Grant, has said he believes the shooting was racially motivated.
"You have a white police officer who is charged with shooting and killing an unarmed black man," Grant said to News19 in an interview last week. "I believe the best person to answer whether he shot him for a racial reason would be the defendant himself."
However, O'Leary said Monday that it's not race, but political pressure that's led to the charge being filed two years later.
"It's unfortunate they try to make this a racial incident because the truth is it is not a racial incident," O'Leary said. "Yeah, you have a black victim and a white officer, and it's just not. You have a tragedy, period.
Combs is also named as a co-defendant in a civil suit brought by Bernard Bailey's widow.
O'Leary tells News19 he's expecting to take witness statements Tuesday, but that no trial date has been set.