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3 Deputies on Paid Leave Following Student's Shooting Death

Posted December 3, 2006
Updated December 4, 2006

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— Three New Hanover County sheriff's deputies are on paid leave following the shooting death of a Cape Fear Community College student from Durham who was killed while law enforcement officers served an arrest warrant at the home he shared.

Peyton Strickland, 18, was killed Friday night after answering a knock at the door of his off-campus residence, his roommate, Mike Rhoton, told the Star-News of Wilmington.

A spokesman for the sheriff's office said up to eight officers were helping University of North Carolina at Wilmington police serve the warrant. The three placed on paid leave all fired shots, the sheriff's office said late Sunday.

Strickland was unarmed, Rhoton said, when he was shot. Deputies also shot Strickland's German shepherd dog to death, he said.

"I don't understand why shots were fired," Rhoton said Saturday. "I've just been trying to figure out why they shot him."

New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David is scheduled to meet with investigators on Monday to discuss the case and review evidence, which includes the door of the residence, to see if the shooting was justified.

"I am making this my top priority," David said. "No one's above the law. If there's any criminal conduct that can be established, I'm not going to hesitate to treat them as any other defendant."

David would not say Sunday whether Strickland was armed at the time police went to his residence.

The warrants, issued for Strickland and UNC-W student Ryan David Mills, charged the two with armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and breaking and entering a vehicle, alleging that they assaulted UNC-W student Justin Raines, of Apex, and took two PlayStation 3s from him on Nov. 17.

Authorities said one suspect allegedly beat Raines with a 6-inch blunt object while another suspect allegedly stole the game consoles. Mills, of Durham, who lives at another Wilmington address, was arrested and later released on bond.

Rhoton said that on the night of the shooting, he and Strickland were home playing video games when Strickland went to answer a knock at the door. Strickland might have had a game controller in his hand when he went to the door, he said.

Within moments, Rhoton said, he heard a barrage of gunfire.

As Strickland approached the door, law enforcement officials knocked it down and "there was a bunch of yelling," Rhoton said.

"Four or five shots went off, and they killed him," he said. "They pinned me down to the ground and told me not to move anything."

Rhoton, who attended high school with Strickland in Durham, said officers mentioned a search warrant but did not provide a copy.

"They never said why they were here, even when I left last night," he said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, family members from across the country gathered at Strickland's home in Durham. Family members described him as "a great kid just getting started in life" who was shot without cause.

"Losing someone this wonderful -- it really doesn't matter what happened or how it happened," said family friend Don Beskind, speaking on behalf of the Strickland family.

In a statement on behalf of Strickland's parents, Don and Kathy Strickland, Beskind described Strickland, the youngest of three children, as a "kind and gentle boy" who was "generous, thoughtful and compassionate."

Court records show that Strickland had been charged in September with felony assault.

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