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DA: Case 'Still Open' Against Deputy in Durham Teen's Shooting

Posted December 14, 2006

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— New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said Thursday that he plans to proceed with a case against a former deputy accusing of fatally shooting a Durham teen during a raid two weeks ago.

Cpl. Christopher Long was indicted Monday on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 1 death of Peyton Strickland. But a judge dismissed the charge Tuesday after the foreman of the grand jury said he checked the wrong box on the indictment form and that members of the grand jury didn't find enough evidence to charge Long with murder.

David met Wednesday with officials from the Special Prosecution Section of the Attorney General's Office to discuss the grand jury's reversal to determine what to do next. He declined to answer specific questions about the investigation Thursday but said the case would move forward.

"This case is still open. The investigation is ongoing, and future court action is anticipated," David said.

The grand jury that heard Long's case has completed its term, and a new grand jury will be empaneled in January, he said.

Strickland, 18, a Cape Fear Community College student from Durham, was shot to death at his Wilmington home by deputies serving arrest and search warrants. Strickland and two friends were charged with assaulting a University of North Carolina at Wilmington student last month and stealing two PlayStation 3 consoles from him.

UNC-W police asked for support from the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office during the arrests of the suspects in the case because of the potential that they were armed and dangerous, authorities said. Strickland had an earlier arrest on a felony assault charge.

Nine heavily armed deputies accompanied UNC-W police to Strickland's home to serve the warrants. Three deputies fired shots into the home, and evidence showed some shots were fired before Strickland opened the door.

Long, 34, told investigators he mistook the sound of a battering ram officers were used to break open the front door to the house as gunfire.

Strickland, who was unarmed, died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Long was fired by the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office a week after the shooting.

David said he continues to support Wilmington-area law enforcement, but that the circumstances of Strickland's death required a complete criminal investigation.

"An investigation is a search for the truth, and as I said from the start, we will go where that truth leads," he said.

But Michael McGuinness, Long's attorney, said David should let the grand jury's decision stand.

"The grand jury, after hearing all of the evidence that the state chose to present, said there was no probable cause that Christopher Long committed any crime," McGuinness said. "Where will it all stop? The third trip to the grand jury? The fourth? The fifth?"

He said it's highly unusual for a case to be brought back before a grand jury after an indictment has been declined once.

"How many of those cases have ever been sent back for a second bite at the apple?" he said. "Maybe there have been some, but we have not been able to find them."

The state Fraternal Order of Police also came out in support of Long, issuing a statement that said the grand jury's decision that there wasn't enough evidence to indict should be respected. The FOP also has started a fund-raising effort to help Long and his family.

David declined to comment on possible charges against Long, whether the grand jury understood that they could indict Long on a lesser charge under state law or questions about a conflict of interest with a grand jury member who is married to a deputy.

"Cases must be tried in court and not in the media," he said.
8 Comments

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  • kvelasquez Dec 16, 2006

    mcrande...it doesn't matter if Peyton was guilty or not, he was shot before he even had a jury trial or the police searched his home. I believe there has been no stolen playstations found in the home. The cops lost control and that is a frightening notion. They are supposed to have supreme training and control of themselves when supplied with a firearm. This is a problem that demands investigation. Knowing the Stricklands as well as I do I'm sure that if they do win a civil case they would donate quite a bit of the settlement anyway. Unless you know what you're talking about stick to the facts.

  • believer58 Dec 15, 2006

    By breaking the law this young man set into play a chain of events that ended in tragedy for his family, as well as for this officer and his family.
    While his crime certainly didn't deserve a death penalty, it was "his" crime that set this stage.
    Makes one wonder how many tragic endings we as a society are willing to suffer before we realize that our failure as parents to instill respect and humanity in our children will result in a great deal more.
    This story is multi faceted.
    The tragic ending is what grabs the attention and causes us to react with emotion....while we continue to lose the lesson.


  • johnettathorpe Dec 15, 2006

    Mcrande, I can't believe that you would suggest that we don't worry about the victim's family because they are going to get paid. It is not about money. If someone in your family died would you tell people.."don't worry about me because I'm going to feel better when I receive the settlement"? There are too many officers committing crimes and getting away with it. Some of them mistake their duty to protect and serve with power. They believe that because they have a badge, they can do anything. Basically their belief is right. Especially when dealing with people like you. They have the power and the city has the money. I can tell that you are the type of person that can be bought. If I kill a man, I go to jail. A officer kills a man and he receives suspension "with pay". I bet if someone had shot this officer's son, they'd be sentenced to death. I am the type of person who hates to call the police. They may come, but they won't do anything.

  • ncsu15 Dec 15, 2006

    mcrande...you must not have children. i speak for those of us who do, the thought of even losing a child breaks my heart. peyton and his family are victims. we should pray for them, even when the lawsuit is settled, they will never see their son again. salary does not matter, the stricklands have lost their son and brother, nothing can change that. can you imagine someone close to you being murder, especially by a police office (whos duty is to protect not kill) and justice not be served? no one can...

  • sam62 Dec 15, 2006

    I think that the sheriffs department has some responsibility in this case also. I know that they were asked for help, but why send in Nine (9) heavily armed officers if you were not expecting trouble. I would think that any time you send in that many, the chances of something going wrong go up at an alarming rate. Yet the sheriffs department decided to fire one deputy, and turn their back on him. Who was in charge at that operation? No One? I think that firing of the officer was just to get the heat off the sheriffs department.

  • MS2004 Dec 15, 2006

    Jordan there is a fund raising event for the family of the so called "victim" Peyton Strickland. Besides that his father is a well known lawyer who gets paid allot of money the Deputy gets paid squat. Also they will get paid when the lawsuit comes around so don't worry about this "victims" family.

  • latanya512 Dec 15, 2006

    Yes we know the young man committed a crime and he should have been punished for it but the officers(which I respect law enforcement)jumped to fast. It seems the more incidents when officers are involved and get away with it is popping up more and more in this country. Do they have their own law in itself? Somebody has lost their child. I believe they would have preferred to see him in prison than burying him.

  • jordanedgerton Dec 15, 2006

    How does a 19 year old boy get shot in the head and nobody gets in trouble for it? They found no signs of weapons in the house. Is it ok to say oops I shot before I knew what was going on? I understand the boys committed a crime, but for heaven sakes! In this article it says that the Faternal Order of Police has started a fund-raising effort for the cop. What about the family of the boy that was killed. They will never see him again! Just think about it! WOW