WILMINGTON — Don Strickland, a Raleigh lawyer who has handled many personal injury and wrongful death cases in his career, just reached a settlement in a case where the injury truly was personal.
His son, Peyton Strickland, was shot to death through the front door of his rental home in December 2006 by a New Hanover County sheriff’s deputy armed with bad information.
This week, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, whose campus police department was involved in the raid, reached a settlement with Strickland’s parents.
“We were determined to do everything within our power to assure that no other family has to endure such a senseless loss due to the UNC-W police department’s lack of proper training and lack of adequate policies and procedures,” Don Strickland said in a family statement released late Friday.
“Our family still mourns Peyton’s death. It has been more than six years, yet we miss him every single day.”
On Dec. 1, 2006, the New Hanover deputy went to the home that Peyton Strickland, an 18-year-old Cape Fear Community College student, shared with several others.
The UNCW campus police department had asked for help serving warrants. They were investigating the theft of PlayStation video game systems.
Strickland’s parents contended in the lawsuit that the UNCW campus police investigation that led the deputy and a New Hanover County emergency response team to their son’s home was “sloppy, hasty and overzealous.” The application for the search warrant, they contended, was riddled with errors that inappropriately led deputies to fear for their lives during the raid.
The UNCW police had led county deputies to think there might be guns in the home. UNCW police had found photos on a Facebook page showing another suspect in the PlayStation thefts posing with guns.
But that suspect, who did not live with Strickland, later said the photos were a prank and that he didn’t own or possess any of those guns.
Under the settlement, the state will pay his estate $150,000 and use $100,000 to train UNC Wilmington police officers.
“The settlement with UNC-W to provide much needed education and training to its police department was the driving force behind our lawsuit,” the family statement said.
Don Strickland also said he hoped the settlement would go a long way toward restoring his son’s “great character and good name by having the truth about him come out through this litigation.”
The UNCW statement acknowledges that Peyton Strickland was unarmed at the time of the shooting, did nothing to provoke the gunfire and had no criminal record. Also, that Peyton was a “local college student in good standing, a friend to many and a talented young industrial artist.”
The settlement with UNCW comes nearly five years after the family reached a $2.5 million settlement with the New Hanover County sheriff’s department. The money from that settlement was used to set up a charitable foundation in the name of Peyton, who graduated from Jordan High School in Durham.
As part of the settlement with UNCW, Strickland’s estate is dropping all other claims against the state, the university, its police department and several people.
“We are pleased that we were able to ... make Wilmington a safer place – which is a fitting tribute to Peyton’s memory,” the family statement said.