A self-described neighborhood watchman was arrested on Aug. 7 and charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man outside his home in Raleigh, N.C., according to local reports.
Chad Cameron Copley, 39, was charged with first-degree murder after fatally wounding 20-year-old Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas. Copley was taken to the Wake County Detention Center where he is being held without bail.
Prior to the 1 a.m. shooting, Coley had called 911 to complain about “hoodlums” in the neighborhood.
“I am locked and loaded,” he told the dispatcher. “I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible.”
He added, “I’m on neighborhood watch. I’m gonna have the neighbors with me. There’s hoodlums out here racing up and down the street. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning, there’s some vandalism.”
Shortly after the shooting, Copley again spoke to 911 dispatchers and said he fired his weapon to protect himself and his family.
“We have a lot of people outside of our house, yelling and shouting profanities,” he said. “I yelled at them, ‘Please leave the premises.’ They were showing a firearm, so I fired a warning shot and we got somebody that got hit.”
When the dispatcher asked Copley, if there was a victim, he stated he wasn’t sure. According to Copley, a white man, armed black males were outside of his home.
According to investigators, Copley fired his shotgun from inside his garage. The News & Observer in Raleigh reported that broken glass was strewn in the front lawn and in the driveway from the blasted window he had shot through. Blood stains were visible approximately 30 feet away from the garage.
Neighbors have disputed Copley’s claims of being a neighborhood watchman. The neighborhood doesn’t have a watch program through the Neuse Crossing Homeowners Association, according to Mike Ellis, a spokesman for the association. If the neighborhood had decided to establish a program, it would have been through the Raleigh police department.
“The association is mainly concerned with covenant enforcement and social functions, like mowing the front entrance and fixing things,” Mike Ellis, a spokesman for the association, told the Raleigh News & Observer. “We do not give residents police powers at all. The homeowners association has certain responsibilities and obligations, and none of that can be construed as law enforcement. We can make you mow your lawn but not law enforcement.”
Thomas had been in the neighborhood to attend a house party that was two doors away from Copley’s home.
Copley’s attorney, Raymond C. Tarlton, issued a statement asking for the public not to jump to any conclusions as the case continues to unfold.
“We have seen too many wrongful convictions for anyone or any organization to jump to conclusions on the basis of someone being charged,” Tarlton said.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the family with funeral costs.
If convicted, Copley could face the death penalty.
The incident draws comparisons to the 2012 shooting of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin who was fatally shot by neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in 2013.