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Thomas' mourners wonder: Why did it happen here?

Posted August 12
Updated August 18

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— The vigil Friday night at Raleigh's Millbrook Exchange Park was like any other. There were balloons, candles, songs and prayer. But it was also different, marred by the questions that surround the shooting death last Sunday of 20-year-old Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas.

The facts are clear: Thomas was with friends at a house party in the 3500 block of Single Leaf Lane. Chad Cameron Copley, 39, a resident of the street, is charged with his murder.

Investigators said Copley fired a shotgun through a window from inside his garage, striking Thomas, who was outside.

Copley called 911 shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday to complain about armed "hoodlums" racing and vandalizing his neighborhood and telling police he was ready to take action. "I'm locked and loaded, and I'm going to secure the neighborhood," he told a dispatcher.

Within hours, Thomas was dead, and, in a second call to 911, the caller said, "They were showing a firearm, so I fired a warning shot, and somebody got hit."

Attorney Justin Bamberg, who is representing Thomas' family, said there is no evidence Thomas or any of the people on the street had a weapon.

The reason, the tensions behind the shooting – Thomas was black and Copley is white – had mourners wondering how a situation could escalate so fast.

"It was just cold-blooded murder, and I hate that it happened," said Betty Johnson. "It could have been my son. It could have been any of our sons."

"You always think, in the back of your head, 'This could never happen in my neighborhood. This could never happen at home,'" said Danielle Harris, a friend of Thomas.

Thomas' family didn't attend Friday's vigil, on the advice of their attorney, but Harris and others had them in mind.

"He love his mom. He loved his family. He loved his friends, and I want people to remember him for that," she said.

"He was just a joy, just a joy to be around," said friend Andrea Tilton.

The questions make it even harder to let go.

Thomas' employers at McDonald's plan a benefit, with proceeds going to his family, on Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. at the restaurant at 6213 Falls of Neuse Road.

"He was a wonderful young man and great employee," manager Andy Martin said.

6 Comments

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  • Roger Chance Aug 13, 7:32 p.m.
    user avatar

    As for playing the race card-look at the shootings in Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Durham in the past 36 hours. Read the daily accounts of shootings in the Triangle and keep score.

    Read the almost daily accounts

  • Alfred Barnes Aug 13, 7:16 p.m.
    user avatar

    Well, let's hope justice is served. The 20 year old was old enough to know better than to be out after midnight causing a disturbance in a peaceful neighborhood. The adults knew exactly what they were doing, and it turned violent. They share in the responsibility.

  • Amber Johnson Aug 13, 2:32 p.m.
    user avatar

    But when will the murders stop? when will we just all come to our senses and realize that taking someone's life is as real as it gets? It isn't a video game, people don't just come back from this. These are real human lives and families torn apart by senseless acts of violence.

  • Amber Johnson Aug 13, 2:19 p.m.
    user avatar

    No one deserves this same fate. But I have a mutual friend and they stated in a post the day of his murder saying "You were always getting into something you shouldn't" which leaves me to believe that all the comments about being an outstanding citizen are just not 100% accurate.

  • Roger Chance Aug 13, 1:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    Race card played once again. 17x more shootings occur within racial bounds than not. It's not nice to mention the almost daily accounts of shootings of that nature in Durham. That's apparently not relevant. Recall the lady saying, "at least we're shooting our own"? Rationalization at it' lowest level. 1- I don't care what you look like, creating a disturbance in a quiet neighborhood at 1 AM MIGHT draw some attention 2- the man was prepared to protect his home and family, but should waited until the perceived threat became real.

  • John White Aug 13, 11:09 a.m.
    user avatar

    Why because one was white and one was black. One person perceived a threat that was not there. Then went and used excessive force under the belief that no one was going to come and look at the problem that was being perceived. Since according to the report the shooter shot from a covered location at a group of people. I really doubt there was any more than one gun involved since it was the only gun fired. So this man needs to spend life in jail without parole. There was absolutely no reason to shoot anyone. So they were making noise and disturbing you. This is called life in a world with others in it. If you want to be left alone in quiet go live in a cave in the mountains. Now you will live out your life in a very small prison cell for a senseless murder of a young man at the beginning of his life.