Local News

Slain Teen's Family Settles With Sheriff's Office

Posted February 27, 2008 12:37 p.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2008 7:24 p.m. EST

— The family of a Durham teen killed by a former New Hanover County deputy has reached a legal settlement with the county.

Peyton Strickland, 18, was killed on Dec. 1, 2006, as New Hanover County deputies and University of North Carolina at Wilmington 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.

The county's insurance carrier will pay Strickland's family $2.45 million, and New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey issued a public apology for the shooting.

"I am profoundly sorry for the death of Peyton Strickland," Causey said in a videotaped statement. "His death was, and remains, a tragedy for everyone involved."

Causey also agreed as part of the settlement to hire a consultant to review the policies and procedures of his department's Emergency Response Team.

Strickland's parents thanked Causey for his efforts to make up for the shooting.

"We believe Peyton’s death would have been prevented if the Sheriff’s Department had better Emergency Response Team policies and procedures," Don and Kathy Strickland said in the statement.

"We are therefore gratified that Sheriff Causey has agreed to have his department’s ERT policies and procedures evaluated and that he is committed to identifying and implementing changes that may help save lives. It is also our hope that other law enforcement agencies around the state will learn from this tragedy."

Deputy Christopher Long told investigators he shot Strickland when he mistook the sound of a battering ram against the front door for gunshots. UNCW police had asked for support from New Hanover deputies because they feared the residents of the house were armed and dangerous.

"One of my officers made a mistake as to the existence of a deadly threat," Causey said in his statement. "I accept full responsibility for the actions of my deputies in the line of duty."

Long was fired shortly after the shooting, but two grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges.

The first grand jury returned an indictment charging Long with second-degree murder in the case, but the charge was dismissed the following day after the grand jury foreman acknowledged that he had marked the wrong box on the indictment.

New Hanover County authorities then turned the case over to the state Attorney General's Office to avoid the appearance of a cover-up or a vendetta against Long.

The case was presented to a second grand jury in July, but members voted against indicting Long on a manslaughter charge.

Strickland's parents said they plan to use the settlement money to create a foundation in the teen's name to conduct charitable work in the Wilmington area.

"Peyton is gone. Nothing can bring him back. We are, however, thankful for the New Hanover County Sheriff Department’s efforts to right its wrong and, in doing so, to help us ensure Peyton’s legacy," they said.