A high-profile attorney representing the family of a 20-year-old man who police say was shot and killed by a homeowner likened the case to the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin during an emotional news conference Thursday.
Attorney Justin Bamberg referred to Chad Copley, the man charged in the Raleigh shooting, as “George Zimmerman 2.0.” Zimmerman was a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman who was charged with killing Martin during an altercation in 2012. He was later exonerated.
Copley has been charged with first-degree murder in the early Sunday shooting in North Raleigh of Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas. Police say Thomas was shot when Copley fired a shotgun from inside his garage.
Flanked by family members of Thomas on Thursday, Bamberg said he is confident that justice will be served for the man’s family. He commended the Raleigh Police Department for charging Copley, who claimed he was a neighborhood watchman and was protecting his family from a bunch of “hoodlums.”
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Bamberg cited similarities between the Martin and Thomas shootings: both were African-American males and both were allegedly shot by men claiming to be part of neighborhood watch. There is one key difference, though, Bamberg said, claiming there was no confrontation between Thomas and Copley.
The attorney also said that it was Copley who introduced the issue of race in his 911 call, in which he talked of “frigging black males outside my frigging house with firearms.”
“We’re saying listen to the audiotape. We didn’t make this about race. Mr. Copley did,” Bamberg said.
Friends of Thomas say he was leaving a party on Singleleaf Lane about 12:30 a.m. Sunday when he was shot.
Bamberg said all the Thomas family wants is justice, and that justice will come with the jury convicting the shooter and the judge giving an appropriate sentence.
We have a problem in society. And that problem is people not understanding and appreciating the value of a human life.
Justin Bamberg, lawyer representing the family of Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas
“We have a problem in society,” Bamberg said. “And that problem is people not understanding and appreciating the value of a human life. Kouren-Rodney was a son, he was a brother, he was a friend and he was a member of this community.”
The slain man’s mother, Simone Butler-Thomas, was nearly overcome with emotion while saying her son was a good boy who often spent his time at home and with his friends.
“They were on their way home,” she said about the night her son was fatally shot. “He didn’t bother nobody. He was a good boy. There’s no words to explain it. I would never want any parent to go through what I’m going through now.”
On the night he was killed, Thomas wasn’t dressed in “sagging pants and do-rag, or anything that people call hoodlums would wear,” his mother said.
“He asked me to take a picture of him before he left,” she continued. “He was wearing a blue shirt, blue jeans with a belt and boots. There was nothing ‘hood’ about him.”
The distraught Butler-Thomas sobbed and said, “I don’t have him no more, and there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can do.”
She called for an end to all killings.
Black kids, white kids, adults; everybody should be tired. When is it all going to end?
Simone Butler-Thomas, mother of Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas
“Black kids, white kids, adults; everybody should be tired. When is it all going to end? I can’t talk no more,” Butler-Thomas said.
She collapsed into the arms of her oldest son.
Bamberg said he wanted to guide the Thomas family members through the legal process so that they would understand what’s going on. The attorney said he will also look at the “civil side” of the shooting.
He appeared critical of the Neuse Crossing Homeowners Association that manages the subdivision, where Copley lived with his wife and two children. He said there were prior incidents involving Copley at his residence.
“Should he have been allowed to stay in this neighborhood?” Bamberg asked. “So I’m investigating all potential civil claims as well.”
Efforts to reach Raymond Tarlton, Copley’s attorney, were unsuccessful Wednesday and Thursday.
▪ Lawyer representing the family of Raleigh’s Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas.
▪ Democratic legislator in the South Carolina House of Representatives
▪ Also represents the family of Alton Sterling, an African-American man in Baton Rouge, La., who was shot and killed outside a convenience store by police investigating a threat report.
▪ Also represents the family of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., who was shot and killed in the back by police following a traffic stop.