The white Raleigh, North Carolina homeowner who shot and killed a 20-year-old Black partygoer Sunday was not part of any local patrol group, neighbors say.
Chad Copley called 911 early Sunday morning and told dispatchers he was “locked and loaded” before firing a “warning shot” at Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, who had attended a party several doors down.
On the call Copley identified himself as being part of a neighborhood watch patrol group. But the New York Daily News is reporting that no such group exist.
“I’m on neighborhood watch,” Copley told the 911 dispatcher. “I’m going to have the neighbors with me. There’s hoodlums out here racing up and down the street. It’s 1 in the morning, um, there’s some vandalism. They have firearms and we’re going to secure the neighborhood.”
But Copley’s neighbors say residents are instructed by police not to take matters into their own hands. The Neusse Homeowners Association exist, but it has no authority to try to protect the neighborhood, a spokesman told the Raleigh News & Observer.
“The association is mainly concerned with covenant enforcement and social functions, like mowing the front entrance and fixing things,” said group Spokesman Mike Ellis. “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.”
Copley has been charged with first-degree murder in a case that is disturbingly similar to the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Cops said Copley shot at a crowd of partygoers from inside of his garage. Thomas, who had been at the party briefly, was preparing to leave when he was shot.
Family and friends of Thomas say he died for no reason. David Walker was with Thomas that night. He said the two were on SingleLeaf Lane, the street where Copley lives, trying to crash a party. Roughly 50 people were in attendance, Walker said, with half of them inside the home. The other half were in the yard.
According to Walker, the two friends were standing outside, waiting for someone to give them permission to come in when a person they knew told them, “Bro, it ain’t no girls.”
As they were leaving, Walker said Thomas saw what he believed to be police lights. Thomas, who had weed on him, took off running, he said. Copley shot him soon after.
Copley’s attorney, Raymond C. Tarlton, released the following statement regarding the incident.
“We have seen too many wrongful convictions for anyone or any organization to jump to conclusions on the basis of someone being charged,” he said. “We have just gotten involved and are at the beginning stages of our investigation. We urge restraint and that folks not rush to judgment.”
Under North Carolina law, Copley could face the death penalty.