A White neighborhood watchman was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in North Carolina for having fatally shot an unarmed Black man in August 2016, CBS reported.
It took a jury less than two hours to decide to publicly declare Chad Copley, 40, responsible for the premeditated death of Kouren-Rodney Thomas, 20. The verdict was surprising and unusual for cases involving Stand Your Ground laws and Black shooting victims, especially those drawing similarities to that of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.
Thomas was gunned down by Copley after he attended a party near the man’s home on August 7, 2016. Copley aid that he felt unsafe with “hoodlums” by his home, but on cross-examination, he admitted to escalating the situation. He confessed to lying to the 911 operator about several things, including being part of neighborhood watch and claiming that people were “racing up and down the street” and vandalizing the neighborhood. He also told a false story about having fired a warning shot, WNCN reported.
Copley’s sentencing hearing was set for Friday in the case that spotlights controversial Stand Your Ground laws, perceived as legal protections for those who use lethal force to defend themselves during a confrontation.
The North Carolina verdict comes after a talked-about Stand Your Ground bill breezed through the Utah house recently. Cases in several other states, including Iowa and Missouri, have come into the national spotlight in the last few weeks.
A recent case detailing a Feb. 7 confrontation at a sports bar where two people were shot in Florissant, Missouri, has raised questions about Stand Your Ground laws. A bar patron’s decision to fire a gun instead of leaving the bar after a physical fight and disagreement about a dog was under some scrutiny, the St. Louis Dispatch reported. The unnamed gunman, 54, fatally shot Scott Beary, 43, a father and husband, and hit another person who was injured on the ill-fated day.
Iowa’s Stand Your Ground law has been used as part of the defense of two male suspects in two recent cases, the Daily Iowan reported. Kevin Staley fired his registered gun at one of two men who reportedly attacked him last October. The attacker, Devin Davis, was killed. The second case involved Lamar Wilson, a Black man who fired his gun five times and killed one person at the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City last August. Reportedly, several men had revealed their guns to Wilson while walking by him.
Stanley’s case was dismissed by a judge before going to trial because of Iowa’s Stand Your Ground law. Wilson was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and assault, but may walk if a judge enforces Iowa’s SYG again, the Press-Citizen reported.
The fight against Stand Your Ground for Black folks has been the lack of punishments against those who would use force against people of color. The immunity offered to those who shoot to kill, not retreat from a confrontation, has been shot down by many activists in recent years. It looks as if the fight against SYG laws will not be over for some time.
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