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Autopsy Shows Deputies Shot Durham Teen in Head

Posted December 4, 2006
Updated December 5, 2006

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— A Durham teen who was killed late Friday by sheriff's deputies in Wilmington died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Medical Examiner's Office in Jacksonville.

Peyton Strickland, 18, and his German shepherd were killed after he answered a knock at the door of his off-campus residence at 533 Long Leaf Acres Drive in Wilmington.

Six to eight deputies had accompanied University of North Carolina at Wilmington police to serve arrest and search warrants at the house, authorities said.

Three deputies are on paid leave pending the results of an internal investigation and a review of the case by the State Bureau of Investigation.

New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David on Monday declined to discuss the details of the incident and asked the public not to rush to judgment

"I recognize that any time we're dealing with the loss of a life, we're talking about someone's baby," David said. "No one is above the law, and no one is beneath its protection. I commit to Peyton Strickland's family and to the men and women of law enforcement who I advise that I will go wherever the truth leads."

David said he has spoken with Strickland's father and that he planned to meet with the family in Durham on Tuesday.

Strickland, who was studying welding at Cape Fear Community College, was named in warrants charging him with armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and breaking and entering a vehicle. The charges stem from a Nov. 17 incident in which UNC-W student Justin Raines, of Apex, was assaulted and robbed of two PlayStation 3 consoles, authorities said.

One suspect allegedly beat Raines with a 6-inch blunt object while another allegedly stole the game consoles, authorities said.

Ryan David Mills, of Durham, who lives at another Wilmington address, also was charged in the case. He was released on $30,000 bond. Mills declined to comment on the case when WRAL contacted him Monday evening.

David said investigators continue to collect information and gather evidence in the case, so he did not want to disrupt that process by discussing it publicly. He said he would update the media on the case on Dec. 11.

"I call for calm in the community while we are working hard on this," he said.

Seven bullet fragments were recovered from the house after the shooting, according to a search warrant. Drug paraphernalia also was seized from the house, the warrant said.

The state Attorney General's Office has been consulted, and David was expected to review evidence, including the door of Strickland's residence, with investigators to see if the shooting was justified.

Strickland's roommate said Strickland was unarmed when he was shot, although he might have had a video game controller in his hand when he went to the door. David would not say whether deputies believed the teen was armed at the time they went to his residence.

According to the search warrant, no guns were taken from the residence.

New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey called the need for deputies to back up UNC-W officers a "safety issue."

Authorities have not specified what the safety issue was, but a search warrant stated that Strickland had a previous felony assault on his record from August in which he allegedly broke another man's jaw.

It also indicated that Mills, who lived at a different address, was known to carry a firearm and was pictured on the Internet with assault rifles, shotguns and pistols.

Back in Durham, a flood of friends and family has surrounded the Strickland family in recent days. The teen's funeral is scheduled for Wednesday.

"We may well want to speak more about the circumstances of his tragic death, but we plan to devote the next few days to celebrating his life," family friend Don Beskind said Sunday.


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