Local News

UNC student's fraternity under investigation

Posted August 31, 2009 12:46 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2009 11:32 a.m. EDT

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is investigating whether a fraternity whose president was fatally shot near Greensboro violated any university rules.

Courtland Smith, a junior biology major from Houston, Texas, was killed early Aug. 23 after a police confrontation following a 911 call during which the 21-year-old repeatedly asked a Guilford County dispatcher to send help.

Archdale police stopped Smith on Interstate 85. A police report said officers shot Smith after a "confrontation ensued."

Smith was also the president of the UNC chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He had reportedly left a party at the fraternity house several hours before the shooting.

In an entry on his blog Friday, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said he has asked the school's Department of Student Affairs to look into that party after Chapel Hill police contacted the university.

"It was obvious that there had been a party there, with alcohol," Thorp wrote. "I know that doesn’t necessarily sound unusual. But in light of the tragedy, we felt that we needed to try to determine whether any university or fraternity policies were violated."

Thorp also wrote that the university will help the fraternity set up a substance-abuse education program after current and former DKE members and parents expressed concern about the party.

It's unclear where Smith was going, but in a 911 recording released last week, he said he was headed to Asheville. He told a dispatcher that he was drunk, had a 9-mm pistol with him and that he was trying to kill himself.

Archdale police said Smith confronted police officer Jeremy Flinchum during a subsequent traffic stop and that Flinchum shot Smith, who died at High Point Regional Hospital.

In the 911 recording, an officer can be heard yelling at him to stay in the car, and the caller can be heard later saying, "I've got to pull something out."

Before the call ends, the caller can be heard yelling "whoa" several times, and someone asks "Where (are) you going?"

It's unclear what happened next. The rest of the recording, as well as contents of a video tape from the dashboard camera of the car that pulled over Smith have been sealed.

WRAL News, The Associated Press and UNC's student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, are among several media outlets that have filed motions asking that the evidence be made public.

In an e-mail to a family friend, Smith's father, Pharr Smith said evidence he's reviewed shows that his son did not have a gun with him.

In a statement last week, Chris Rice, an alumnus of the fraternity, said that information he had indicated that Smith left the party at approximately 12:30 a.m. and "seemed to be fine." He was with roommates at around 2 a.m. and "sounded normal."

The State Bureau of Investigation, is investigating the shooting, which is routine when an officer is involved.

Thorp wrote in his blog that investigators requested a court order for Smith's e-mails and that they have also talked with some students.

He said many parents have asked him not to let this teachable moment pass.

"We still don't know why Courtland died, but we can't let this tragic death pass without learning from it," Thorp wrote.