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Court: Slain Durham teen's family can sue UNC-W

Posted July 19, 2011

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— The state Court of Appeals has ruled that a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and its police department by the family of a slain Durham teen can move forward.

Peyton Strickland, 18, was killed on Dec. 1, 2006, as New Hanover County deputies and UNC-W police raided a rental house in search of two stolen PlayStation 3 video systems.

Strickland, who was unarmed, was shot in the head and in the chest as he went to open the front door, authorities said.

UNC-W police had asked for support from New Hanover deputies because they feared the residents of the house were armed and dangerous.

The Strickland family filed a wrongful death suit against UNC-W, but the university claimed a public doctrine defense, which bars claims against government agencies for negligence in protecting someone from the actions of a third party.

The appellate court ruled that doctrine doesn't apply in this case, noting UNC-W police put in motion the events that led to Strickland's death. The ruling clears the way for the suit to proceed before the state Industrial Commission, which handles tort claims against the state.

Deputy Christopher Long told investigators he fired on Strickland after he mistook the sound of a battering ram against the front door for gunshots. Long was fired shortly after the shooting, though two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges.

The Strickland family settled with New Hanover County three years ago for $2.45 million.


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  • Rebelyell55 Jul 20, 2011

    Yep, there are always two sides to a story. Don't expect them to really win the lawsuit, but the university will most likely settle out of court.

  • piknowles4 Jul 19, 2011

    To shoot through a closed door not knowing who was on the other side? Give me a break. What if his mother was visiting for a few days? What if his girlfriend was the one standing there? Beating up a kid for a video game doesn't justify it
    even if they knew there was a chance there was a gun there.

  • dhill51945 Jul 19, 2011

    This story is really sad for all concerned. If I remember correctly, this boy was not enrolled in one high school only but also attended some type of special school. Saying this then maybe he was not ready to leave home to be on his own. Evidently he was not capable of being mainstreamed in a normal college environment like UNCW or I am sure his parents would have wanted that for him. He had his own residence in Wilmington and then beat and robbed a kid on the UNCW campus. Also if I remember correctly, he posted online pictures of himself with a gun. That is why there was real concern as to his intent. This being said it is sad for parents to try to make decisions with their children who are really not ready to leave home but cannot say no to them. Then it is sad for the police who truly believed that this kid after robbing beating the UNCW student and posted online his picture with a gun that there was a real potential threat to others. Correct me if my memory is wrong.

  • TheDude abides... Jul 19, 2011

    Why dont they just sue the officer. Take everything he has. Make him SHARE in their pain.

    Better yet, how about a billboard. Now THAT would be painful.

    Just deserts.

  • Bill Brasky Jul 19, 2011

    So what did the police find after they raided the home? That's right, the stolen Playstation.

    With that said. Both sides made poor decisions leading up to the tragic outcome of the 18 year old's life. First off, Peyton made a video and posted it on the internet holding guns and bragging about their crimes, and in fact did steal the Playstation. On the other hand, the Officer failed miserably by mistaking the battering ram noise for a gunshot, causing the officer to shoot through the door killing Peyton and his dog as he was answering the door. It was a combination of bad decisions on both sides.

    About a year ago this same officer, then a civilian, made headlines in Wilmington again. He rescued an elderly woman who was drowning in a flooded car on New Centre Dr.

  • gemmoney Jul 19, 2011

    Sounds like the authorities over-reacted, Playstations and they send an armed swat team?

  • wdclark Jul 19, 2011

    It's sad but it seems the only way to effect change is to take money away. I wonder how much training could have been paid for with the 2.4 million hanover co. paid out. Maybe with a little more training we can teach our leo's the difference between gunshot sound, and the sound of a door being knocked in. It's still beyond my understanding how anyone can shoot and kill an unarmed person, through a closed door, and not be liable for that death."he fired on Strickland " he didn't know who he was firing on. He only assumed. If he could have seen him, he would have known he was unarmed, but blindly shot through a closed door. I am not slamming leos, they have a tough job, but they are accountable like we are for their own actions.

  • jenbocock Jul 19, 2011

    I hope these play stations were worth 2.45 million! Why send a SWAT team for play stations, do the regular cops not know how to get them back? Go knock on the door, stand to the side, when the kids see more than 1 cop in uniform, im sure they would have handed them over! Did they not scope things out first, did they not know who it was they were looking for? A BUST GONE TERRIBLY WRONG!!!!

  • ICTrue Jul 19, 2011

    "The grand juries weren't "afraid" to indict him - they didn't have the evidence to pass down a bill of indictment. His life has been ruined as well. What about the lives of all that were involved? Don't you think they walk around with some regret about what happened? "

    I absolutely hope that they walk around with some regret over murdering that kid. Unless they are psycopaths, then I don't see how they couldn't.

  • give me no quarter Jul 19, 2011

    Blame the police? Blame the judge? Really. Peyton Strickland set this whole mess in motion when he and his partner beat and robbed a young man.