A 20 year old black man was killed by a ‘neighborhood watch’ vigilante in Raleigh, NC just past midnight on Monday. Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas had just walked out of a party with his friends to head home when Chad Copley fired a “warning shot” that fatally wounded Thomas.
911 dispatchers received a string of calls from the neighborhood where the incident occurred within a short span of each other. It began with Copley calling:
Copley: We’ve got a bunch of hooligans out here racing. I am locked and loaded. I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible.Dispatcher:I’m sorry. You’re going out to do what to the neighborhood, sir?Copley: I’m going to secure my neighborhood. I’m on the neighborhood watch. I’m going to 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 several dozen of them. They have firearms, and we’re going to secure our neighborhood. If I were you, I’d send PD as quickly as possible.
The dispatcher asked for a house number or intersection to give to the police, but Copley refused and just gave her the street before hanging up.
About five minutes later, 911 received a second call from the neighborhood in which a man says, “Someone just got shot … someone shot him outside of his house.”
Just seconds after the call that reported the shooting, 911 received a third call, which appears to be a second call from Copley’s house. A distressed woman gives the exact address of Copley’s house, and tells the operator that she doesn’t know what happened, she was just upstairs with her children. Then a man, presumed to be Copley, takes the phone:
Copley: We have a lot of people outside our house yelling and shouting profanities. I yelled at them, ‘Please leave the premises.’ They were showing a firearm, so I fired a warning shot and we got somebody that they got hit.Dispatcher: OK, so somebody was shot?Copley: Well, I don’t know if they’re shot or not, ma’am. I fired my warning shot like I’m supposed to by law. They do have firearms, and I’m trying to protect myself and my family.”[Inaudible]Copley: There are frigging black males outside my frigging house with firearms. Please send PD.
The case is eerily similar to the Trayvon Martin case, in which Martin was killed by neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman; the only difference is that there is no evidence at all of an altercation between Thomas and Copley.
The host of the party that Thomas attended says that he did not see anyone armed among his 50 or so guests. David Walker, Thomas’s friend who was with him at the time of the shooting, said that they were quiet and unarmed. He told the Raleigh News and Observer, “It was silent. No fighting and no arguing and no one waving guns.”
The police has said that they do not know whether anyone in the area was armed. However, it is clear that Thomas and Walker did not pose a direct threat to Copley, who was in his house. What this case comes down to why Copley thought the two young men were “hoodlums,” and why he fired a “warning shot” aimed directly at them. The apparent explanation is that Copley stereotyped them based on their skin color.
Thomas’s mother, Simone Butler-Thomas, has insisted that her son was not “a street boy.” She says, He loved life. He loved his family. He loved his friends.” She has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral. It reads:
Help me lay my baby to rest.
My son was taken away from me on yesterday. While out with his friends at a celebration for him moving into his new apartment he was shot and murdered.
All I want is to have a proper service for my baby Koury. He is a donor and he will be donating some parts of him to cancer patients and other people that may be in need.
Koury was my baby and I love him. He loves pink and all I want to do is send him off well. He was fun, lovable, caring, just a good guy, and very overprotective of me his mother and other love ones in general.
Our thoughts are with Simone and the rest of Thomas’s friends and family. They lost their loved at young age to gun violence and vigilante “justice.” This needs to stop.
Please consider supporting the fund. Thank you!
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.