Lawyer: 'Castle doctrine' unlikely to apply in fatal Raleigh shooting
Posted August 10
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.