Chad Copley was in his home when he allegedly fired his shotgun at a group of partygoers across the street. He called 911 and claimed he was going to “secure my neighborhood” from “hoodlums,” and shot a 20-year-old unarmed black man.
Police released the 911 recordings without identifying the callers, but they did allege that shortly after, Copley fired his shotgun from inside his home toward the street, and struck 20-year-old Kouren Bernard Thomas, who had been attending a party.
Thomas died at the hospital, and Copley was arrested shortly after.
Authorities haven’t said whether any firearms were recovered from Copley’s home or anywhere near Thomas, but witness statements and 911 calls paint a picture of a frightened man who was ready to fire his gun.
In addition, it is still unclear as to whether or not Copley is a neighborhood watch representative.
Neighborhood watches do help police departments, which often respond to false alarms. Each false alarm requires 20 minutes and two officers to investigate. However, even if Copley was on the neighborhood watch, these organizations are not responsible for enforcing the law, nor are they the law.
It’s unclear what kind of defense Copley’s lawyer is going to use, but they will certainly have North Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law behind them. The case at hand brings back memories of the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting, as well as other instances where “Stand Your Ground” has been used in defense.
In fact, the most recent use of this law is in a Miami man’s case.
According to the Miami Herald, accused gunman Sean Barnes is asking a Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge to dismiss the attempted murder charges against him from 2013 on the grounds that he was defending himself.
In August 2013, Barnes followed his ex-girlfriend Brooke Tuchinksy into a Denny’s restroom. After he saw her “grab a shiny object” out of her purse, he opened fire, striking Tuchinsky in the face and breaking her jaw.
Tuchinsky survived the attack and is expected to testify next week.
Florida ratified “Stand Your Ground” in 2005. The law has been criticized for fostering vigilante justice, as well as providing killers with a way to beat murder charges. Additionally, the law eliminates a citizen’s duty to retreat before resorting to the use of deadly force in a tense situation.
The law has been cited in countless court cases since it was ratified, most of which have been those like Trayvon Martin and now Kouren Thomas’ deaths.
“Traditional laws are that if you’re in your house you don’t have to retreat,” said Lindsay Nichols, senior attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “But if you’re outside the house — or the person is outside your house — you can’t use deadly force … [Stand Your Ground] laws present a real threat to public safety.”
Thomas’ mother set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs.
“While out with his friends at a celebration for him moving into his new apartment, he was shot and murdered,” wrote Munyir Thomas. “All I want is to have a proper service for my baby Koury.”