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Archdale chief defends officer who shot UNC student

Posted August 25, 2009

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— A police officer's fatal shooting Sunday of a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student continues to produce more questions than answers.

Officer Jeremy Paul Flinchum of the Archdale Police Department shot Courtland Benjamin Smith, 21, of Houston, Texas shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday off southbound Interstate 85 in Randolph County, authorities said.

Smith was a junior majoring in biology at UNC and was president of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity on the Chapel Hill campus.

Archdale Police Chief Darrell Gibbs said Tuesday that Flinchum was dispatched because a caller to 911 was threatening to commit suicide. Flinchum tried to pull over a gray Toyota 4Runner on the highway but wound up following the vehicle until it stopped near Exit 108, authorities said.

Gibbs said he's sure Flinchum stopped the right vehicle.

Courtland Smith, UNC student killed by Archdale officer UNC student's death prompts questions

Police said a confrontation ensued between Smith and Flinchum, and the officer shot Smith, who died at High Point Regional Hospital.

The case was immediately turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation, which routinely handles officer-involved shootings. Flinchum has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Gibbs said he couldn't comment on whether Smith had a weapon – he said his officers didn't search Smith's SUV – or how many shots were fired.

A second officer, whose name hasn't been released, arrived to assist in the traffic stop before the shooting, Gibbs said. That officer also was put on leave because of the emotional toll of the incident, he said.

Flinchum was trained to use a stun gun, but Gibbs said the department doesn't have enough of the weapons for all officers.

"We share them, so I can't tell you if he had one on him or not," Gibbs said.

The SBI has declined to comment on its investigation.

Gibbs said he doesn't think Flinchum did anything wrong in the case.

"Not in my opinion. Not from what I know now," he said, adding, "I don't have all the facts before me."

Flinchum has been with the Archdale police since April 2008. Before that, he spent six years with the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, and Sheriff Maynard Reid said he was a "fine officer" and an "excellent record."

Gibbs said he doesn't like people speculating about the case until the SBI investigation is complete.

"People think that you are out here and you've got this gun, and cops want to be bad to you and put you in jail and shoot you. That is not true. Our main goal is to help people," he said. "It's very painful for him and his family to go through this, and no officer ever wants to face this in their career."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Toddlermother Aug 28, 2009

    Ok, I must be making this too easy, if most people are concerned whether they pulled over the correct vehicle or not. The suspect kept telling 911 what exit he was passing, and in which direction - anyone can put two and two together and see if there is a vehicle matching the description, going at least 95 MPH (as the suspect stated he was driving) around the exit he just stated. Also, if you listen to the 911 call, you can clearly hear the police in the background telling him to stay in the car (he even says he was pulling over b/c there were cops behind him). This isn't rocket science people!! The police had every right to pull him over, he was threatening suicide (he told 911 that) - which means he's a risk to himself, as well as possibly to others. Don't rush to judgment and make ALL police out to be idiots just b/c you feel SOME are on power trips! Let's hear all the facts first, then make decisions - but rather or not they got the correct vehicle - case closed!

  • ngsoldier13p Aug 28, 2009

    I have one question...Since when do LEO's carry stun guns? I'm pretty sure I am certified to carry a Taser, which is not a stun gun. A stun gun has to be applied directly to a persons body, meaning you have to be in grabbing distance. A Taser has prongs that are connected to wires that are fired from a cartridge and stick in your skin and/or clothing. This can fire between 15-24 ft, depending on the type of cartridge. You can remove the cartridge and use a Taser like a stun gun, but not vice versa. I know that if I were dispatched to this very same call, and I was told before hand that this person said they have a gun, and I ordered them to show me their hands and instead they reached down to pull something out of their clothes...Hey, it's them or me, all day. Forget waiting that split second, that split second could cost me MY life. I'm not gonna make my daughter grow up without a father bc some drunk kid wants to not comply with orders...

  • Pharmboy Aug 26, 2009

    How can the chief defend the officer if he doesn't have all the facts himself!?? The chief can defend the officers credibility, record, and experience but should not comment/say anything about the events/actions until he gets the official report.

    There are bad LEO everywhere. Some stem from limited education, or enjoying their power over citizens, while others are just criminals. In my mind, these types of officers constitute less than a fraction of a percent (

  • beachboater Aug 26, 2009

    With the news that a second officer was on scene BEFORE the shooting, I'm betting that the truth will come out, good or bad.

    Until something BAD is proven, I'm staying on the high road and thinking that his actions were justified.

    Sad indeed.

  • b444s Aug 26, 2009

    something is not right here; did the young have a gun?

  • whatusay Aug 26, 2009

    Some of the facts will come out eventually during the investigation. Why did the LEO pull the 4-runner over, was he breaking any laws? Did the LEO have a stun gun? Did the 2nd LEO have a stun gun? Did the UNC student have a gun? Did the LEO pull over the wrong vehicle, for no reason except to question him?

    The answers will eventually come.

  • thepeopleschamp Aug 26, 2009

    "If an LEO is bad then they can ruin your life or even take it." jlh4jdj

    Please cite just ONE case of this happening in NC where an officer ended a life and was not justified. If it is as common as you portray, it should be easy to find ONE case where an officer was convicted in a shooting.

  • ian3141 Aug 25, 2009

    Much information seems to be missing for the Chief to be so sure his officers did the right thing. How does he know they stopped the right vehicle, that is, the vehicle from which the 911 call was made? Surely the chief must know whether the officers thought they saw a weapon, even if they didn't search the vehicle. Why doesn't the chief know if the officer had a taser with him? These are all pretty basic pieces of information to be missing, yet the chief is sure the officer did the right thing.

    It is sounding more and more as if the wrong vehicle was stopped and tragedy resulted. Rather than covering up, the chief should be trying to figure out what went wrong and make sure his "protocol" is changed so it doesn't happen again.

  • tatermommy52 Aug 25, 2009

    and be reviewed by the SBI,FBI, DA, grand jury,civil suit,and internal affairs (where there is no right to remain silent or right for a lawyer or search and seizure protection or due process protection) and be tried in the media and on blog sites.

  • LocalBoy Aug 25, 2009

    I read all the comments that people make about bad police. Now I would like for you or others to come up with solutions on how to fix the problem. Maybe police departments should offer better pay. That way they could hire better applicants. But wait, towns would have to raise taxes in order to do that. How about more training for officers. But then we would need more officers to cover the ones in training which takes us back to the pay problem. How about a less stressful work environment. Not going to happen. Truth is, officers are human just like the rest of us. They are capable of making mistakes. As an officer I will be the first to say that bad officers make the job harder for the rest of us. In this particular case we do not yet have enough facts to make a judgement either way.