Photo of Courtland Smith from The Daily Tar Heel.
Pretty shocking story out of Chapel Hill, late last month. Nobody seems to know exactly what happened early Sunday morning, August 23rd, on I-85 in Archdale, North Carolina, where Courtland Benjamin Smith, 21-year-old University of North Carolina student, was shot to death by police. He was a junior biology major from Texas and president of the UNC chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
He was driving drunk on I-85, although he claimed to be on I-40. Maybe he didn't know exactly where he was.
He called 911 and said he had a gun. There is now doubt that he had one, and his father says he didn't own one.
I have not listened to all 17 minutes of the 911 call, and don't think I could bear it. But Cedar Posts in Charleston did, and describes it:
The Charlotte News and Observer:
Before the tape stops you can hear Cortland Smith say "whoa" several times and in the back ground the officers shouting commands no doubt with weapons drawn. Then someone yells “Were the “F” are you going?”
There is a sound like he is being pulled back out of the car, a shrill noise and the released tape goes silent.
What is not heard is the sound of gun fire as Cortland Smith exits the car the second time perhaps with a gun.
No doubt the officer over reacted and emptied his weapon hitting Smith 4 times.
No doubt Cortland Smith meant no harm to the officers.
No doubt the 911 dispatcher will never get over what happened.
They followed the right procedures but he didn't have a gun? Isn't that a contradiction?
A spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation, which routinely investigates shootings involving police, said Wednesday it couldn't release further details about the shooting because the investigation was incomplete.
Despite Smith's claim, it's unclear whether he actually had a gun. Archdale Police Chief Darrell Gibbs said in an interview Wednesday that he is not aware of any gun being found on the scene, though his officers left all evidence untouched for the SBI investigation and had not searched Smith's vehicle. Smith's father, Pharr Smith, said in an interview Monday that his son didn't own a gun.
Gibbs said that he wanted to wait for the results of the SBI probe before saying that he was sure his officers had acted properly. But from all he had heard so far, Gibbs said, they followed the right procedures.
From Cedar Posts, August 27th:
I told you, I can't listen to it.
The newly released recording from the Archdale Police Department makes it clear that the officers knew little more about Smith than that he was suicidal and might be armed. It includes one officer’s response when Smith is shot, but no gunfire can be heard.
“Stay in the car, stay in the car,” one officer says.
“Subject not getting in the car,” says another.
“Subject down! Subject down! Shots fired, shots fired!”
Then an officer comes on, using standard police code for an ambulance. “We’ve got subject secured. We’ve got shots fired, subject down. Have 10-52 respond.”
He then asks that 102 (Deputy Chief) be contacted.
The last words on the recording are “High Point Hospital.” The hospital where 20 minutes later Smith would be declared dead.
Cedar updates on September 1st:
That would be one Jeremy Paul Flinchum, 29, now on paid leave from the department.
SBI continues to review Cortland Smith shooting. Archdale police chief has been quoted as saying the facts are still under review, while the Raleigh News and Observer has filed a FOIA request for release of police video of the traffic stop of Cortland Smith. The matter may be held up for another week. Rumors continue to surface regarding the officer who killed Smith.
Why did they seal the recording? Why are they having to go to court to unseal it? If the cops "followed procedures"--it seems that they would hurriedly show the video to the media to clear the officer of any wrongdoing. The fact that they are obviously hiding it? Well, what have they got to hide?
At least one of the two police cars on the scene was equipped with a dashboard video camera. A Randolph County assistant district attorney had a judge seal the recording Aug. 25.
Five media organizations including [Charlotte] News & Observer are going to court to get a police video recording of the traffic stop in which Smith was shot. The organizations also are asking for an unedited version of the student's 911 call.
I'll try to provide updates as they become available. If anyone has any new information to add, please leave in comments.
EDIT and UPDATE: From Cedar Posts, Sept 19th.