Homicide

Prosecutor calls death of man shot by officer 'senseless;' defense says truck a deadly weapon

  • FILE - In a Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 file photo, Richard Combs, left, the former police chief and sole officer in the small town of Eutawville, S.C., listens in court with his lawyer John O'Leary, in Orangeburg, S.C. Solicitor David Pascoe said in opening arguments Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015 that Bernard Bailey was murdered over a broken taillight by then-Eutawville Police Chief Combs. But Combs' lawyer O'Leary says the chief had a legitimate warrant against Bailey, and the victim turned his pickup truck into a weapon when he tried to back away as Combs tried to arrest him. (AP Photo/The Times and Democrat, Larry Hardy, File)

    FILE - In a Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 file photo, Richard Combs, left, the former police chief and sole officer in the small town of Eutawville, S.C., listens in court with his lawyer John O'Leary, in Orangeburg, S.C. Solicitor David Pascoe said in opening arguments Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015 that Bernard Bailey was murdered over a broken taillight by then-Eutawville Police Chief Combs. But Combs' lawyer O'Leary says the chief had a legitimate warrant against Bailey, and the victim turned his pickup truck into a weapon when he tried to back away as Combs tried to arrest him. (AP Photo/The Times and Democrat, Larry Hardy, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Solicitor David Pascoe demonstrates where the third shot fired by former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs struck the victim Bernard Bailey, on Wednesday, Jan 7, 2015, the first day of Combs' murder trial in Orangeburg, S.C.  Wednesday, Jan 7, 2015,  in Orangeburg, S.C. Pascoe said in opening arguments Wednesday that Bailey was murdered over a broken taillight by then-Eutawville Police Chief Combs. But Combs' lawyer says the chief had a legitimate warrant against Bailey, and the victim turned his pickup truck into a weapon when he tried to back away as Combs tried to arrest him. (AP Photo/Times & Democrat, Larry Hardy)

    Solicitor David Pascoe demonstrates where the third shot fired by former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs struck the victim Bernard Bailey, on Wednesday, Jan 7, 2015, the first day of Combs' murder trial in Orangeburg, S.C. Wednesday, Jan 7, 2015, in Orangeburg, S.C. Pascoe said in opening arguments Wednesday that Bailey was murdered over a broken taillight by then-Eutawville Police Chief Combs. But Combs' lawyer says the chief had a legitimate warrant against Bailey, and the victim turned his pickup truck into a weapon when he tried to back away as Combs tried to arrest him. (AP Photo/Times & Democrat, Larry Hardy)  (The Associated Press)

  • Defense attorney John O'Leary gives opening statements on the first day testimony in trial of former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs on Wednesday, Jan 7, 2015 on Orangeburg, S.C.. Combs is charged with murder for the shooting of Bernard Bailey.  (AP Photo/Times & Democrat, Larry Hardy)

    Defense attorney John O'Leary gives opening statements on the first day testimony in trial of former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs on Wednesday, Jan 7, 2015 on Orangeburg, S.C.. Combs is charged with murder for the shooting of Bernard Bailey. (AP Photo/Times & Democrat, Larry Hardy)  (The Associated Press)

A prosecutor says the 2011 fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police chief in rural South Carolina was a senseless act of violence.

Solicitor David Pascoe said in opening arguments Wednesday that Bernard Bailey was murdered over a broken taillight by then-Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs.

But Combs' lawyer John O'Leary says the chief had a legitimate warrant against Bailey, and the victim turned his pickup truck into a weapon when he tried to back away as Combs tried to arrest him.

Authorities say Combs was trying to arrest Bailey on an obstruction of justice charge a few days after the chief issued a broken taillight ticket to Bailey's daughter.

The former chief faces from 30 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.