Minutes before a 20-year-old Raleigh man was mortally wounded outside a North Raleigh home early Sunday, a man called from inside the house to say there was a “bunch of hoodlums” outside and that he was “locked and loaded” and going to secure his neighborhood, according to a recording of the 911 call released Monday.
“You need to send PD as quickly as possible,” the man told the dispatcher. “I’m on neighborhood watch. I’m gonna have the neighbors with me. There’s hoodlums out here racing up and down the street. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning, um, there’s some vandalism.”
Later Sunday, police charged the home’s owner, Chad Cameron Copley, 39, with first-degree murder. Investigators say he was inside his garage on Singleleaf Lane when he fired a shotgun, hitting Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, who was outside.
Thomas had come to the neighborhood about 12:30 a.m. to attend a party two doors down from Copley’s house, according to a friend, David Walker of Raleigh. Walker, 20, said he and Thomas were among the last to arrive for the party and that he parked his Ford Taurus behind “a string of cars.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Walker said he and Thomas weren’t invited and were waiting for someone to give them permission to come inside the home when someone they knew told them, “Bro, it ain’t no girls.”
“If there were no girls there, we figured we might as well go back home,” he said.
Walker said Thomas saw what he thought were police lights. He said his friend wanted to avoid a confrontation because “he had a little weed on him,” so he took off running toward Walker’s Taurus.
“I’m looking at him running the whole time,” Walker said Monday. “I yelled at him, ‘We good now, stop running.’ He turned his head back to me, and that’s when a shot went off. We didn’t know that it came from the house. We were all looking around like, who got a gun?”
Shortly after the shooting, a woman called 911 from inside the Copley house. After her brief conversation with a dispatcher, the man who made the initial call came on the phone.
“We have a lot of people outside our house, yelling and shouting profanities,” he said. “I yelled at them, ‘Please leave the premises.’ They were showing a firearm, so I fired a warning shot and, uh, we got somebody that got hit.”
“Someone was shot?” the operator asked.
“Well, I don’t know if they were shot or not, ma’am,” he told her. “I fired my warning shot like I’m supposed to by law. They do have firearms, and I’m trying to protect myself and my family.”
The operator asked who had come to his house.
“Ma’am, I don’t know who they are,” the man said. “There’s frigging black males outside my frigging house with firearms. Please send PD.” Then he hung up.
Police say Copley fired at Thomas from inside his garage. Monday afternoon, glass lay in the driveway and front lawn where the blast apparently came through the window. Blood stains and bloody gauze were left in the yard about 30 feet from the garage, a few feet from the street.
Jordan Lewis, 16, who lives at the home where the party was held, said about 50 people attended the function, with about half the people inside the home and another 25 or so milling about in the front yard. Walker said when he and Thomas arrived, the street was quiet.
“It was silent,” Walker said. “No fighting and no arguing and no one waving guns.”
‘A Mama’s boy’
Thomas’s mother, Simone Butler-Thomas, walked down the steps of the family’s North Raleigh home on Monday afternoon with a framed picture of her youngest son. As she reached the bottom step, her legs gave out. Her two eldest sons held her up. She rubbed her finger back and forth across the picture.
“This is my baby,” she said sobbing. “He looks just like me.”
Butler-Thomas and other family members described Thomas as a bit of a comedian. The youngest of three sons, he attended Wake and Franklin County public schools. He was convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting and assault charges when he was 16, and that same year got his first job at a McDonald’s in Louisburg.
He worked there until 2014, when he started working at a Waffle House. He had been working at a North Raleigh McDonald’s since May. His work apron, name badge and hat sat atop a coffee table at the family home Monday. He had been looking forward to helping his girlfriend, Amani Rainey, 19, move into her dormitory at East Carolina University, where she will begin her first year of college this month.
Rainey, Butler-Thomas, her sons Kris Williams, 32, and Kellen Crosby, 29, said Thomas was protective of his family. He made sure everyone was wearing their seatbelts and would ask Amani to call when she got home so he would know she was safe.
“He was ‘Mr. Safety 101,’” his mother said.
Butler-Thomas said she learned about the shooting at 1:27 a.m. Twice more, someone called to inform her about it and she hung up on the caller both times. Butler-Thomas said she went to WakeMed after officials there called her. She thought her son was still alive when she arrived at the hospital and waited three hours for him to come out of surgery, when a hospital official told her that her son was dead on arrival.
“I was led to believe that he was alive the whole time,” she said. “We haven’t seen him yet.”
Copley remained in the Wake County jail Monday. Wake County District Judge Craig Croom told him that he could be put to death if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
Copley, outfitted in blood-red jail garb, was represented by public defender Charles Caldwell, who told Croom that the Capital Defenders Office would represent Copley.
Copley was denied bail by Croom, who wished the man “good luck” before sheriff’s deputies led him out of the courtroom.
Copley whispered a few words to family members in the courtroom and blew a kiss to a woman who sat with the group.
Before and after
Excerpts from 911 calls made by a man at 3536 Singleleaf Lane early Sunday morning. Police have charged the homeowner, Chad Cameron Copley, with murder after a man was shot in front of the house.
12:50 a.m. “We’ve got a bunch of hoodlums out here. I’m locked and loaded, and I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible.”
12:57 a.m. “We have a lot of people outside our house, yelling and shouting profanities. I yelled at them, ‘Please leave the premises.’ They were showing a firearm, so I fired a warning shot and, uh, we got somebody that got hit.”