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DA Turns Teen Slaying Case Over to State

Posted February 12, 2007

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— New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David on Monday said that he would no longer pursue a criminal case against a former deputy charged with killing a Durham teen in a botched raid two months ago.

David said he would turn the investigation over to the state Attorney General's Office to avoid the appearance of a vendetta against the former deputy or a cover-up.

"My office does not have an actual conflict of interest in prosecuting this case. Rather, what has arisen over the past few weeks is the appearance of one," David said at a news conference Monday.

Peyton Strickland, 18, a Cape Fear Community College student from Durham, was shot to death at his Wilmington home on Dec. 1 by deputies serving arrest and search warrants. Strickland and two friends were charged with assaulting a University of North Carolina at Wilmington student in November 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. 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. Strickland, who was unarmed, died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Cpl. Christopher Long, 34, was fired by the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office a week after the shooting and was later indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the shooting.

But the murder charge was dismissed a day after the indictment was returned. 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 had said the case remained open against Long. He said his decision to turn the case over to state prosecutors isn't tied to the merits of the case.

"It is vital that everyone understand that my action today is neither an exoneration, nor is it a prelude to an imminent indictment or other charges," David said in a statement. "Since this case began, I have been very mindful of the need to bring in outside review of the facts and law to ensure integrity in this process."

David has met several times with members of the Attorney General's Office and had the State Bureau of Investigation review the shooting.

"Having presented this matter to the grand jury, I do not believe that it is appropriate that my office do so a second time," he said in the statement. "Some would see such an action as a vendetta against Mr. Long and, if the matter is not reconsidered, as a whitewash. Neither option will, in my opinion, serve the public interest or permit the judicial system to bring this case to a conclusion."

Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement that members of his office's Special Prosecutions Section would review the case file to determine if it should be presented to a grand jury again.

But Long's attorney said the case should have been dropped instead of transferred.

"Christopher Long has already been exonerated once -- loud, clear and unmistakebly by the grand jury," defense attorney Mike McGuiness said. "There is no case. There has never been a case."

Strickland's parents released a statement Monday thanking David for his work on the case.

"The importance of this case justifies the decision to have it handled by the Special Prosecutions Section of the N.C. Attorney General’s Office," the statement from Don and Kathy Strickland said. "Though difficult for our family, we intend to see this matter through in the hope that other families might be spared a similar tragedy."

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  • 0 Tolerance aka Ms.Turner Feb 13, 2007

    I can't agre with you more buttercuppy! Whose is regulating the regulators? Who decides and determines these rules of when to shoot, who to shoot etc? This shoot first ask questions later is backwards. On the flipside I know officers have to protect themselves but where is the protocal?

  • notadumbredneck Feb 12, 2007

    buttercuppy: you're right, I didn't mean that to come acrosss as a personal attack. The system IS broken, and there's no easy fix in sight. I'm professionally involved with ensuring public safety, so perhaps I become a bit defensive as a result. Criticize the system itself, not the individuals that are working on your behalf within its boundaries.

  • MzFang Feb 12, 2007

    mondolab Why does every comment on here have to illicit a personal attack on the poster????

    I was not critiquing the individual officers but rather the shortcoming's of the system itself, which is OBVIOUSLY flawed or we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Chill out, we're ALL entitled to our own opinions whether you agree with them or not.

  • BLA BLA BLA Feb 12, 2007


    well, dont answer the door with a cordless phone in your hand either,
    or a porkchop, or soda etc. Apparently something went wrong here and
    a person was killed. It's up to the State, not us to figure out what that
    was. Give it a few weeks and we all will be ranting about something else.

  • notadumbredneck Feb 12, 2007

    So, buttercuppy.. do the thugs, hoodlums, criminals and gang members have set regulations for training and standards? I'd dare say that they have no other training outside of putting bullets into you and your family. Stop your criticism and thank those people that put themselves in harm's way to keep your sorry butt safe.

  • MzFang Feb 12, 2007

    While this situation is tragic for all parties involved, I am most concerned about the so-called SWAT divisions that are proliferating at PD's across the nation and have NO set regulations for training & standards.

    "There's absolutely no standards or national accreditation or anything a department has to do to establish a tactical team. North Carolina -- and most other states -- don't set statewide standards for tactical SWAT training, either for classroom work or practicing realistic scenarios" said Peter Kraska, a criminal justice professor at Eastern Kentucky University.

    This is scary if you ask me and I have to wonder how anyone can determine if this shooting was justified or not if there are no "official" protocols, guidelines, or standards for training in place. It's sounds like a poorly executed logistical nightmare that has become a reality.

  • shylove357 Feb 12, 2007

    regardless of what this teen did, he did not deserve that and that cop was wrong. He should of lost his job and got charged and once in prison they need to get him from the inside also. He deserve it all.

  • notadumbredneck Feb 12, 2007

    All I know is, if this kid and his buddies assaulted me and tried to take my property, they might walk away from it, but they'd be taking a trip to the hospital's emergency room first. Maybe this incident will make people think twice about trying to rob someone of their property. If this kind of thing happened more often, there would be a LOT less crime, no?

  • jessie4 Feb 12, 2007

    you mean to tell me office's of the law can shoot outside to inside someone homeand not be held accountable for it.yet if someone was breaking into your house and shot them and kill them we would be charge with murder.go firgure it's what side of the law you are on. this young boy lost his life because someone was not using there traning to me.you don't around shooting in to someone home.what if that had happen to the officer you would be under the jail.

  • seankelly15 Feb 12, 2007

    Skippy - don't know what you read, but the guy had a previous shooting - this time into a car - and, fortunately no one died. He is in the wrong line of work - way too jumpy to entrust with a gun.
    Mbtreats - I do not understand why you would boil this down to the choice between 'chip on your shoulder' and 'valid self righteousness'; it is neither. Did the deputy fear for his life or the lives of others - well, we don't know - he certainly didn't care about the life of the person he killed?
    Finally, no one has mentioned the UNCW security patrol; why were they investigating an occurrence that happened off-campus; under what authority were they able to secure a warrant; and, why did they think they could serve a warrant? And, why did the sherrifs office get involved - because they were asked? Didn't they know that the warrant was not valid - that the local authorities were not invesitigating.