Local News

Court: Slain Durham teen's family can sue UNC-W

Posted July 19, 2011 3:20 p.m. EDT
Updated July 19, 2011 4:48 p.m. EDT

— The state Court of Appeals has ruled that a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and its police department by the family of a slain Durham teen can move forward.

Peyton Strickland, 18, was killed on Dec. 1, 2006, as New Hanover County deputies and UNC-W police raided a rental house in search of two stolen PlayStation 3 video systems.

Strickland, who was unarmed, was shot in the head and in the chest as he went to open the front door, authorities said.

UNC-W police had asked for support from New Hanover deputies because they feared the residents of the house were armed and dangerous.

The Strickland family filed a wrongful death suit against UNC-W, but the university claimed a public doctrine defense, which bars claims against government agencies for negligence in protecting someone from the actions of a third party.

The appellate court ruled that doctrine doesn't apply in this case, noting UNC-W police put in motion the events that led to Strickland's death. The ruling clears the way for the suit to proceed before the state Industrial Commission, which handles tort claims against the state.

Deputy Christopher Long told investigators he fired on Strickland after he mistook the sound of a battering ram against the front door for gunshots. Long was fired shortly after the shooting, though two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges.

The Strickland family settled with New Hanover County three years ago for $2.45 million.