'Neighborhood Watchman' Kills Unarmed 20-Year-Old Black Male

While at a party in Raleigh, Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas was shot by a white man who told 911 “frigging Black males” were outside his “frigging house.”


By Sheryl Estrada

Early Sunday morning, Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was shot for being Black while attending a house party near the home of self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman Chad Copley in Raleigh, North Carolina. Thomas’ tragic death echoes the circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.

Copley fired a single shotgun blast from inside his garage at partygoers just after 1 a.m., following a call he made to 911 stating “hoodlums” with firearms were in his neighborhood. The shot struck Thomas, who was out near the street. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Jalen Lewis told WTVR he hosted the party at his home, two doors down from Copley, where Thomas was one of 50 people who showed up. Lewis said he didn’t see any of his guests carrying a gun and wasn’t aware of anyone causing problems. Thomas’ friends said he did not have a gun. Police found no weapons outside.

“The man’s body was right in front of the mailbox,” Lewis said, pointing at Copley’s mailbox. “I don’t know how [Thomas] was a threat from the garage.”

In his initial 911 call Copley told the dispatcher, “I am locked and loaded. I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible.”

“I’m sorry. You’re going out to do what to the neighborhood, sir” the dispatcher asked.

(Listen to the 911 call)

“I’m going to secure my neighborhood. I’m on the neighborhood watch,” Copley said. “I’m going to have the neighbors with me. There’s hoodlums out here racing up and down the street. It’s 1:00 in the morning. There’s several dozen of them. They have firearms, and we’re going to secure our neighborhood. If I were you, I’d send PD as quickly as possible.”

According to The Raleigh News & Observer, residents and a manager of the Neuse Crossing Homeowners Association said Copley’s neighborhood does not have a neighborhood watch.

And, “police say that where homeowners do organize neighborhood watch programs they are told to call 911 when they see suspicious or criminal activity, rather than take matters into their own hands.”

911 dispatch received another call from Copley’s home less than 10 minutes later.

“We have a lot of people outside our house yelling and shouting profanities,” Copley said. “I yelled at them, ‘Please leave the premises.’ They were showing a firearm, so I fired a warning shot and we got somebody that they got hit.”

“Okay, so somebody was shot” the dispatcher asked.

“Well, I don’t know if they’re shot or not, ma’am. I fired my warning shot like I’m supposed to by law. They do have firearms, and I’m trying to protect myself and my family,” Copley replied.

The dispatcher asked who was outside his house, and Copley said he didn’t know but that there was a party at a nearby home.

“There are frigging Black males outside my frigging house with firearms. Please send PD,” he said.

(Listen to the second 911 call)

David Walker, Thomas’ friend who was with him at the party, said the single bullet hit his arm before landing in his chest.

“I heard the shot, and I’m watching him run and saw him drop,” Walker told The Daily News.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Who shoots a warning shot at a person”

Copley was arrested on Sunday and charged him with first-degree murder. He appeared in a courtroomMondayat the Wake County Judicial Center in Raleigh and was arraigned on murder charges.

Trayvon Martin

In 2012, Martin was just 17 years old when he lost his life at the hands of George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman called 911 when he saw Martin simply walking through his neighborhood and said he was “suspicious.”

Related Story: Is Trayvon Today’s Emmett Till

Martin was returning to his father’s home after purchasing an AriZona iced tea and Skittles from a convenience store. Defying the 911 dispatcher, Zimmerman approached Martin, and minutes later the teen was shot in the chest. Martin was unarmed. His death resulted in the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Zimmerman claimed self-defense and said he was supported by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. He was eventually charged in Martin’s death. But in July 2013, a jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Related Story: Mothers of Black Victims of Violence Lead Movement for Change

At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month, Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, and several other mothers who lost children to gun violence or excessive police force took center stage.

Fulton called The Mothers of the Movement a cause she had no intention of joining.

“I am an unwilling participant in this movement,” Fulton said. “I would not have signed up for this. None of us would have. I didn’t want this spotlight, but I will do everything I can to focus some of that light on a path out of this darkness.”

Unfortunately, Thomas’ mother, Simone Butler-Thomas, is now also a member of a club no mother wants to join. To cover her son’s funeral costs, she has set up a GoFundme page.

“While out with his friends at a celebration for him moving into his new apartment he was shot and murdered,” Butler-Thomas wrote. “Koury was my baby and I love him. He loves pink and all I want to do is send him off well. He was fun, lovable, caring, just a good guy, and very overprotective of me his mother and other love ones in general.”

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