Neighborhood Watch Vigilante May Face Death Penalty For “Warning Shot” Killing
39-year-old Chad Cameron Copely has been charged with first degree murder for the “warning shot” shooting death of Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas and may face the death penalty as a result.
A North Carolina homeowner has been charged with fatally shooting a man with a shotgun blast that police said was fired from inside his garage.
Just minutes before Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was fatally shot, 911 dispatchers got a call from someone claiming to be on the “neighborhood watch” and complaining about “hoodlums” outside his house.
“We’ve got a bunch of hoodlums out here racing,” the man can be heard on audio from a 911 call to the Raleigh Police Department. “I am locked and loaded. I’m going to secure my neighborhood.”
Minutes later, Thomas was dead and now 39-year-old Chad Cameron Copley is charged with first degree murder and being held in the Wake County Detention Center.
If convicted, Copley could face the death penalty.
Here’s the language of North Carolina’s statute defining first degree murder.
A murder which shall be perpetrated by means of a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon of mass destruction as defined in G.S. 14-288.21, poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or which shall be committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of any arson, rape or a sex offense, robbery, kidnapping, burglary, or other felony committed or attempted with the use of a deadly weapon shall be deemed to be murder in the first degree, a Class A felony, and any person who commits such murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment in the State’s prison for life without parole as the court shall determine pursuant to G.S. 15A-2000, except that any such person who was under 18 years of age at the time of the murder shall be punished in accordance with Part 2A of Article 81B of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes.
It appears that prosecutors are considering the sentiments Copley expressed during his 911 calls as evidence of premeditation.
The News & Observer then published this chilling detail, which suggests that Copley fired through a closed window.
Police say Copley fired at Thomas from inside his garage. Monday afternoon, glass lay in the driveway and front lawn where the blast apparently came through the window. Blood stains and bloody gauze were left in the yard about 30 feet from the garage, a few feet from the street.
Let’s unpack all the ways Chad Cameron Copley (pictured above) screwed up, based on the evidence we know so far.
The first is that he left the relative protection of his home to go into his garage confront a group in the darkness beyond. He put his life at risk, instead of doing the smart thing, which is to call 911 and let officers arriving at the scene handle the issue.
But Copley didn’t do the smart thing.
He went out and confronted the group and they started cursing at him.
Copley then says, “they were showing a firearm.”
He didn’t say they threatened him with it or brandished the weapon, and he didn’t consider it a deadly force threat. If he did, he would have fired at the man pointing the gun and would be at most facing a manslaughter charge.
But Copley—clearly the 911 caller referenced in the story—didn’t claim that he was using his shotgun in lawful self-defense. Copley claims that he fired a “warning shot.”
His “warning shot” struck and killed Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas.
Copley appears to have indicted himself with 911 calls that were essentially a confession.
You don’t tell the police that you are going to “secure your neighborhood” and then tell the dispatcher that they “better send police quickly” because you’re about to take the law into your own hands.
You never fire a warning shot. Warning shots are illegal nearly everywhere. You’re either justified in firing a shot in self defense at a violent person, or you aren’t authorized in discharging a firearm at all.
Chad Cameron Copley did not want to wait for law enforcement, took the law into his own hands, was ignorant of the applicable laws, and then discharged a weapon when he got over his head.
If you are going to acquire a firearm, you have the moral and legal responsibility to know not just basic firearms safety and weapon manipulation, but the applicable laws of your state regarding using that weapon.
Chad Cameron Copley clearly took the law into his own hands and took a life as a result.
He may now lose his life in return.