Who Was Koury Thomas? His Death In North Carolina Has Sparked Outrage

Back in 2012, a neighborhood watchman in Florida fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The Black Lives Matter movement launched when this watchman, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of Martin's murder. Though four years have passed since Martin was killed, racially-charged incidents of police brutality have contributed to ongoing outrage. And the Sunday morning death of a 20-year-old black man at the hands of a neighborhood watchman in Raleigh, North Carolina, exemplifies that quite clearly. The recent death of Koury Thomas strongly resembles that of Martin in 2012.

"I am locked and loaded," 39-year-old Chad Copley reportedly told the 911 dispatcher before shooting Thomas, according to a recording of the call. "I'm going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible." When the dispatcher asked him to clarify, Copley said he was on the neighborhood watch, and that "there's hoodlums out here racing up and down the street." He alleged that they had firearms, CNN reported, and reiterated that he was going to "secure the neighborhood."

Other 911 calls have helped authorities piece together what happened next. According to CNN, another man reportedly called 911 to report a shooting, saying that someone shot Thomas "out of his house." A woman then allegedly called 911 from Copley's house, saying that she was with her children, before giving the phone to a man who said he fired a "warning shot" but didn't know if anybody had been hit. "I yelled at them, 'Please leave the premises.' ... There are frigging black males outside my frigging house with firearms. Please send PD," the man reportedly said before hanging up. By that time, Thomas was unconscious in the street after Copley allegedly shot him through a window from his garage, The News Observer reported, and police said he was later pronounced dead at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh.

Munyir Simone Butler Thomas, Thomas' mother, set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for her son's funeral. She explained on the page that on the night he was killed, her son had been out celebrating with his friends because he had just moved into a new apartment. She also talked a little bit about who Thomas was, as a tribute to his life.

Raleigh police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan told CNN that police could not confirm Copley's allegation that Thomas was armed. Hourigan also said she was "unsure" whether Copley was acting in an official neighborhood watch capacity.


Copley was taken to Wake County jail and has been charged with first-degree murder. According to The Washington Post, Copley could face the death penalty if he is convicted. But Shaun King argued in the New York Daily News that charging Copley for murder is not sufficient on its own: "We must acknowledge this was a killing driven by bigotry and racism."

Yes, we must — because as Republican nominee Donald Trump incites more violence and lends credibility to white supremacists around the country, failing to acknowledge systemic racism is dangerous and irresponsible.