Local News

UNC fraternity president shot, killed during traffic stop

Posted August 24, 2009

— A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student was shot and killed by a police officer during a confrontation after a traffic stop on Interstate 85 in Randolph County early Sunday, authorities said Monday.

The State Bureau of Investigation said Officer Jeremy Paul Flinchum of the Archdale Police Department shot Courtland Benjamin Smith, 21, of Houston, Texas.

Hopewell Church Road in Archdale, scene of Courtland Smith's shooting death UNC stunned by student's death

A wreath hung on the door of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity on the Chapel Hill campus, where an unidentified alumnus said Smith, a junior biology major, was the chapter president. He said the fraternity brothers were stunned by the shooting and didn't want to comment.

Smith's family also didn't want to talk about the shooting Monday, said Rick Rivers, spokesman for Smith's high school, Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston.

Archdale police said in a statement that a man in his early 20s called 911 from a car on I-85, between Trinity and Archdale, shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday to say he was suicidal. When officers stopped his car near the Hopewell Church Road exit, police said, the man became confrontational, and an altercation ensued in which an officer shot the man.

Smith was transported to High Point Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police Chief Darrell Gibbs said Monday that the vehicle didn't immediately stop when Flinchum tried to pull it over, but there was no chase involved. A second officer arrived at the scene before the shooting, he said.

Gibbs said he didn't know if Smith was armed because officers didn't search the car before turning the case over to the SBI.

The SBI normally investigates officer-involved shootings.

Flinchum, who has been with the Archdale police since April 2008 and previously was a Randolph County deputy, has been put on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Dennis Gerber, national director of chapter operations for Delta Kappa Epsilon, said he spoke with Smith Saturday afternoon to plan a visit to the UNC chapter. Smith sounded excited about the upcoming year and recruitment efforts, he said.

“We are extremely upset about the situation, and we are there to support the undergraduates and help them in any way possible,” Gerber said.

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement that the university community was "deeply saddened" by Smith's death.

"There is nothing worse than losing a young person. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as they grieve and cope with such a great loss," Thorp said.

Classes are scheduled to start Tuesday at UNC, and the university planned to have counselors available for students.

"It's just one of the those things where you have to take a step back and understand that this is one of our colleagues. We definitely are grieving for him, you know, and for his family too," student body president Jasmin Jones said. "It makes you look at one another and say, 'I need to give you a hug today.'"


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • ma2345 Aug 25, 2009

    Tell us about ONE single time in NC where someone called the police and their life was ended without justification
    About a month ago I had two cops try and kick in my door cause my dog was barkin at a raccoon. The cop was putting his shoulder to my front door and smashing it in. I thought it was home invasion. Completely illegal. I cut out my lights cracked the door an inch or two right before the cop was gonna hit my door again..I stood in a corner in the dark ready to splatter the first one in. The cops must have figured I knew a little bit about self defense ...They actually RAN to their cop car and peeled out of my driveway. I called next day to report my side. Funny nothing was reported at all by the cops tryin to break in.

  • thepeopleschamp Aug 25, 2009

    "My advice though is to never call the police unless you want your world turned upside down and inside out and maybe even ended." latitude52n

    Tell us about ONE single time in NC where someone called the police and their life was ended without justification.

  • ma2345 Aug 25, 2009

    No info and I smell something stinky. If the kid had a gun I think the Police would the first to yell....HE HAD A GUN!!!!!
    Otherwise I think the kid was probably just drunk and made a big mistake by calling for help.

  • DizzyDaphnee Aug 25, 2009

    I want to know at what point in time are we going to be allowed to have the particulars of what "he became confrontational" actually entails. Sorry folks, but that phrase in and of itself last time I checked wasn't justification for shooting someone. All seems very HUSH HUSH which is sooooooooo N.Carolina. All those little backroom secrets. If the officer is so RIGHT about his actions WHERE ARE THE DETAILS?? If it had been a NON cop to shoot the boy there would have been ten more articles covering it from every conceivable angle. I respect LAWS and principles. I would give credit to the officer if I KNEW it was warranted. Unable to just take someone's word for it. Give the public more facts about what happened or when we will be allowed to know. We have a right to find out how the police define 'BECAME CONFRONTATIONAL". My advice though is to never call the police unless you want your world turned upside down and inside out and maybe even ended.

  • doubletap357 Aug 25, 2009

    I'm inclined to think it may be suicide by cop, but there is very little information available at this time. We will have to wait until the SBI finish their investigation. I doubt that they will release much in the way of additional information until they are finished.

  • finwearer Aug 25, 2009

    alright genuises, have none of you ever heard of "suicide by cop"? Or are you products of the "falling SAT" story. Suicide by cop is for those that just don't have the anatomy to do to themselves what they want done so they put themselves into a situation that is tenous and "force the hand" of the officer. THEN WE CAN ALL BLAME THE OFFICER!! And NOT the person with the issue that was so destructive.

  • doubletap357 Aug 25, 2009

    Man I am so glad I am out of Law enforcement so I don't have to deal in this sort of carp any more. You guys that are still in , consider getting out it's just not worth the pain and suffering and risk to you or your families. You'll be happier without the stress and also you can actually make real money.

  • thepeopleschamp Aug 25, 2009

    seaturtle, tell us about the last time you answered a 911 call from a suicidal person and dealt with it on the side of the raod with a stranger and it was dark.

  • seaturtlesrule Aug 25, 2009

    Why not TASE the dude?! He could have been on drugs and in a psychotic state of mind....but he just looks like a college kid! Don't know what happened, but do you have to shoot and kill a suicidal young man? Can you say - "Overreaction"?

    If he had a gun - I'll apologize!

  • CarolinianByChoice Aug 25, 2009

    For this particular story, WRAL doesn't seem to be omitting details - I checked other news sources and they don't have much more detail either - except to state the 911 call has been "sealed". Folks, some people can put on a great act that all is hunky dorey in their life and still be a miserably depressed - so for people to say "But he was a great person in such great spirits" doesn't mean much if someone is a good actor - they can still be spiralling into the depths of despair and you would not know. It is of great question why a LEO would shoot the young man, but we weren't there and hopefully a thorough investigation, including the 911 call and (hopefully) tape from the dashcam of the police car will shed some light on this horrific event. My condolences to this young man's family and friends, we cannot even imagine the agony you must be experiencing.