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Lawyer: 'Castle doctrine' unlikely to apply in fatal Raleigh shooting

Posted August 10, 2016

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— A lawyer who once killed two men trying to rob his home said Wednesday that a Raleigh homeowner charged in a weekend shooting death likely won't be able to argue he was defending his property when he fired.

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was killed outside 3536 Single Leaf Lane early Sunday. Homeowner Chad Cameron Copley, 39, has been charged with first-degree murder in the case and remains in the Wake County jail without bond.

Copley called 911 shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday to complain about armed "hoodlums" racing and vandalizing his neighborhood and telling police he was ready to take action.

"I'm locked and loaded, and I'm going to secure the neighborhood," he told a dispatcher.

About seven minutes later, his wife called 911 to report the shooting, and he took the phone from her and said he had shot in self-defense.

"They do have firearms, and I'm trying to protect myself and my family," he said, noting that he had fired a warning shot that might have hit someone.

Investigators said Copley fired a shotgun through a window from inside his garage, striking Thomas, who was outside.

Under North Carolina's "castle doctrine," someone has the right to use deadly force to defend his or her home, vehicle or workplace from an imminent threat.

"One of the requirements is that person against whom the force is used is either in the home or attempting to get in the home," said Raleigh attorney Karl Knudsen. "If the deceased was not physically on the shooter's property, than the castle doctrine does not apply."

Copley never told 911 dispatchers that someone was trying to get into his home. Police, however, haven't said exactly where Thomas was when he was shot.

"The law presumes that you were in fear of serious bodily injury or death," Knudsen said.

He has some personal experience with protecting his home and family. Two men tried to rob him in his home in the early 1980s while he was inside with his wife and newborn baby. They shot him, and he fired back, killing both men.

Knudsen also noted that the castle doctrine law has no provision for any warning shot.

"In that case, you don't fire warning shots. You shoot the person who is threatening you," he said. "By definition, a warning shot is something to say, 'Hey, I'm armed. Go away.' They're typically fired up in the air, not horizontally into a group of people."

Copley also told the 911 dispatcher that he was "on neighborhood watch" at the time, but other residents in the Neuse Crossing subdivision said Wednesday their neighborhood has no organized watch program.

Police said the shooting remains under investigation.


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  • Alfred Barnes Aug 11, 1:51 p.m.
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    I suppose if he was being tried by the media. "Only gun found" doesnt mean they weren't there. You think a bunch of street racers with firearms would stick around. Maybe manslaughter, out in 10. Still wouldn't want to be him. It was a horrible tragic accident, and anyone who says otherwise is a delusional hypocrite.

  • Mike Jones Aug 11, 12:12 p.m.
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    The only gun found was the shotgun that killed the kid in the "street". Dude is going down for life, maybe you can stock his commissary with protection money cuz he'll need it

  • Alfred Barnes Aug 11, 10:46 a.m.
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    Where they armed? If they were brandishing weapons outside his home, then who's to say he wasn't in fear for his life from a gang of marauders? 1st degree murder? Get serious. Now a civil rights attorney is involved. What was this kid doing on the street at 1 a.m. drag racing around a neighborhood? Is that his civil right? What about the people who live in that neighborhood?

  • Mike Smith Aug 11, 10:07 a.m.
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    Location doesn't change the basic rule of self defense: you may use deadly force only to protect death or serious injury.

    Someone disturbing the peace or walking on your lawn does not qualify.

    NC has plagiarized Florida law on the justifiable use of force, including the presumption that the use of deadly force against someone breaking into your home (NB - not walking on your lawn) is justified.

    But a presumption is just that, and may be overturned by evidence. Most people are familiar with the presumption of innocence at a criminal trial. This presumption does not preclude a verdict of guilty at the end of the trial, of course.

  • Freda Kerr Aug 11, 8:45 a.m.
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    I need to amend a sentence. I meant to say "most black people are law abiding, hard working, tax paying citizens".

  • Freda Kerr Aug 11, 8:23 a.m.
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    No one was trying to break into Copley's house so what you say makes no sense at all. It sounds like the party was breaking off, and no other neighbors called about noise or drag racing or vandalism. You need to do a bit of soul searching. Not all black people are violent thieves and are in fact hard working, tax paying citizens, and not all white people are law aiding Rhodes Scholars.

  • Sean Creasy Aug 11, 7:17 a.m.
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    I must have missed the racist comment there.

  • Chris Morgan Aug 11, 6:26 a.m.
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    Most people think they understand the Castle Doctrine and don't. You can not protect property with a firearm. They have to be in or trying to enter your home. You can not shoot someone for being on your property. If they are outside Lock down your home and wait to see what they do. If they try to enter or worse enter than you have that right. Self Defense Laws in General state you have to be in fear for your life or Great Bodily harm. Many people do not understand when to shoot and when not to and you will end up in jail if you do not learn the laws.

  • Tony Biancardi Aug 10, 11:31 p.m.
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    And people like you are the very reason why there is a Black Lives Matter movement. You obviously think it's OK to shoot and kill black folks simply for being in a neighborhood where "they don't belong."

  • Clarence Drumgoole Aug 10, 10:38 p.m.
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    He messed up! How many lives are ruined because of his actions? There is no defense for stupid!