Mistrial declared for South Carolina ex-police chief who killed unarmed black man
Richard Combs

A judge declared a mistrial early on Tuesday morning in a murder case against a white former police chief in South Carolina accused of shooting dead an unarmed black man in 2011, local media reported.

The prosecution of Richard Combs is the latest in a series of cases involving white officers charged with killing unarmed black men that have triggered protests and debates about race and police tactics across the United States.

Judge Edgar Dickson declared the mistrial around 2 a.m. local time as the jury remained deadlocked after 12 hours of deliberation, broadcaster WLTX reported.

Requests for comment to prosecutor David Pascoe, defense attorney John O'Leary and court officials were not immediately returned.

Combs, the former police chief of the small town of Eutawville, was accused of shooting 54-year-old Bernard Bailey on May 2, 2011 in the town hall parking lot.

Prosecutor David Pascoe said Bailey came to speak with Combs about a traffic ticket issued to his daughter. Combs then tried to serve Bailey, a former prison guard, with an arrest warrant for obstructing justice stemming from the traffic stop.

Pascoe told the court the police chief tried to prevent Bailey from driving away and fired three shots from his gun, striking Bailey in the chest, abdomen and head.

Defense attorney John O'Leary said Combs had reason to fear for his life as he found himself wedged in the open door of Bailey's truck.

WLTX reported that Pascoe would attempt to mount a retrial against Combs for murder. Combs could face a sentence of life in prison if convicted.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Andrew Heavens)