A North Carolina murder-eerily reminiscent of the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin-reportedly occurred in the early morning of August 7, 2016. Chad Copley, a 39-year-old neighborhood watch vigilante, called 911 claiming there was “a bunch of hoodlums racing” outside of his home. Prior to asking that an officer be dispatched, Copley tells the dispatcher that he is “locked and loaded.” Shortly after, he says “I’m going to secure my neighborhood. I’m on 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. There’s some devil in them. They have firearms and we’re going to secure our neighborhood. If I were you, I’d send PD as soon as possible.”
Moments later, an unidentified woman from the same neighborhood called 911 asking that police be dispatched to 3536 Singleleaf Lane, frantically stating “somebody’s dying.” Copley then takes the phone and composedly explains that people outside of his home brandished their firearms. “I fired a warning shot, and uh we got somebody that got hit”, he says. When the dispatcher asks “did they just show up at your house,” Copley’s voice changes from coldly emotionless to panic-stricken. “Send PD! There’s black males outside my freakin’ house with firearms! Please send PD!”
The victim, later identified as Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Chad Copley has since been arrested and booked on first-degree murder without bond.
In a 2012 shooting, a very similar occurrence left an unarmed teen dead in Florida. George Zimmerman, now infamous for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was also a member of neighborhood watch and grew hyper vigilant upon spotting a black teen walking through the neighborhood adorned in a hoody and jeans. Zimmerman called Sanford County Police describing “a real suspicious guy” whom he claimed appeared to be casing houses in the area. He too was somehow able to discern a person’s inclination to commit crime by their appearance, telling the dispatcher “this guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.”
Zimmerman chased Martin, a struggle allegedly ensued between the two, and Trayvon was fatally shot once in the left side of his chest. This case amassed national media attention and galvanized hundreds of protests nationwide demanding that George Zimmerman be charged with murder. In an unfortunate succession of events, Zimmerman was eventually charged with second-degree murder but was later acquitted of the charge.
Such a conclusion may not arise for Chad Copley. Though similarities between the two cases are clear, Kouren Thomas’ death may actually result in his murderer’s atonement, an ostensibly rare outcome in the murder of black boys and men.
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