By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – A lawyer for the family of a man shot and killed in North Carolina called his accused killer “George Zimmerman 2.0” as the dead man’s mother pleaded on Thursday for an end to gun violence in the United States.
Chad Copley, who is white, is accused of firing a shotgun from inside his garage into a crowd of people in front of a nearby home on Sunday and killing 20-year-old Kouren Thomas, who was black. Raleigh police arrested Copley, 39, on a murder charge.
An unidentified man called 911 early on Sunday, saying he was on the “neighborhood watch” and heading outside to deal with “hoodlums” who had guns and were racing on his street.
“I am locked and loaded,” the caller said, according to a recording provided by the Raleigh Police Department. “I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood.”
Justin Bamberg, a lawyer hired by the Thomas family, identified the caller as Copley and said his claims were reminiscent of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer and maintained he killed the unarmed Martin in self-defense. He was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, which sparked civil rights protests and intense scrutiny of Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Bamberg said Kouren Thomas was unarmed and that there was no evidence of guns at a house party he had been attending.
“There was no altercation,” said Bamberg, who also represents the families of shooting victims Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. “Mr. Copley never left his house. He was never in danger of imminent harm.”
Lawyer Raymond Tarlton, who is representing Copley, issued a statement cautioning against a rush to judgment before all the facts of the case were known.
Simone Thomas defended her son and said, “He wasn’t dressed when he left with sagging pants or a do-rag or anything that people call hoodlum.
“There was nothing ‘hood’ about him,” she said. “He was a good kid and I don’t have him no more.”
She said she now fears for the safety of her two surviving sons.
“I just want all of this to end. All of the killing. Black kids, white kids, adults,” she said, sobbing as she spoke to reporters.
“I’m just tired,” she said. “Everyone should be tired.”
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins)