Chad Cameron Copley, bless his heart, can be forgiven if he’s awakened the past few mornings behind bars in the Wake County Detention Center and wondered to himself, “Why am I in here with this jumpsuit on?”
Copley has surely seen, as many of us have, countless instances of unarmed black men being victimized – choked or shot – with minor or no repercussions for the victimizers. If he did what police say he did – shot and killed Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas from behind his garage door – can we really blame him if he thinks that this was no big deal?
No, because so many others have gotten away with it.
Neighborhood watchman patron saint George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012 after we heard a police dispatcher tell him not to follow the kid. We actually saw police choke Eric Garner to death for selling loose cigarettes. We saw police pick up Freddie Gray for having a legal little pocket knife. Gray was dead hours later.
In none of those cases was anyone found guilty.
Oh, Copley must’ve known there’d be a tad bit of inconvenience, possibly even a trial. After that though, he’d become a cause celebre, feted the same way Zimmerman has been by a segment of society. Why, he might’ve even been able to, just as George did, auction off the gun with which he allegedly killed an unarmed young black male. Last time I looked – and I tried never to look – someone had offered Zimmerman $250,000 for his gun.
The model of piece he used can be bought online for a couple hundred dollars. That’s without the blood on it, though.
It’s not clear what, if anything, Chad Cameron Copley knew about the people outside his home, the ones he called the law on. Check that. He knew one thing about them: that is why he was confident in identifying them as ‘hoodlums’ just by eyeballing them.
Copley, 39, even called 911 to inform police of what he perceived as a grave threat and to say what he was fixing to do – go out and confront the ne’er-do-wells outside. He never, judging by forensic evidence at the scene and police reports, went outside. He apparently fired a shotgun blast while inside his garage.
What the ...
It’s not clear what, if anything, Copley knew about the people outside his home, the ones he called the law on. Check that. He knew one thing about them: that is why he was confident in identifying them as “hoodlums” just by eyeballing them.
Our respect for law enforcement officers should be infinite until given reason to feel otherwise. For instance, after a State Highway Patrol officer pulled me over for speeding after midnight Saturday, he couldn’t have been more professional and I couldn’t have left the encounter more pleased – meaning “alive.”
Him: Can I see your license, please?
Me: (White-knuckling the steering wheel, so that both hands were visible): I’m sitting on it.
Him: That’s OK. You can get it.
Only after receiving permission did I release my life-grip on the steering wheel and reach into my back pocket for my wallet. Whether I was exceeding the speed limit or not I know not, but he was doing his job of protecting other motorists and me. He gave me a ticket, and we both went on our way. That’s how police-citizen interactions are supposed to go down.
Most do. Way too many, especially when the citizens is a black dude, don’t.
The respect other officers and he warrant is not reserved for self-proclaimed neighborhood watch wusses who’ve O.D.’ed on Clint Eastwood movies and thus think they’ve been deputized to, in Copley’s words, go “secure our neighborhood” against the ravenous demon horde outside his door. (That, at least, is apparently what his mind turned them into before he allegedly blasted through his own garage with his shotgun.)
Homeslice even tried to adopt law enforcement lingo when calling 911, talking about how he’s “locked and loaded” and “You need to send PD as quickly as possible.”
“There’s hoodlums out here racing up and down the street. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning, um, there’s some vandalism. They have firearms,” he told the 911 operator.
In the yard of Copley’s home, the one with the U.S. flag flying out front, the only evidence of what happened is glass from the garage door and bloody gauze with which someone tried to stanch the blood flowing from Thomas’s body.
A neighbor with whom I spoke Wednesday in the leafy, multi-ethnic community said her husband and she heard noise, obviously from a party, but that there was no undue rowdiness, no vandalism. Police have said there were no other reports of problems in the neighborhood that night – until Copley allegedly fired his shotgun.
Did I mention it was fired from behind his garage door?