A Charlotte business owner called 911 to say someone was breaking into his store — and the 911 operator advised him not to approach the building until police arrived, according to 911 recordings released Tuesday by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
“We’ll see what happens when I get there,” Alan Brett Corder replied.
When Corder arrived at the garden center on East Independence Boulevard, police say he shot 20-year-old Justin Tyler Anderson. Anderson was pronounced dead at the scene, early in the morning of Aug. 6.
Corder was indicted by a grand jury Monday on a manslaughter charge.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Five and a half minutes after the first call, Corder called 911 again.
“He just ran out of the store, ran at me,” Corder said in the second call. “I shot at him three or four times. I think I may have hit him.”
The 911 recordings include two calls from Corder and one from CPI security, reporting the break-in at 4:32 a.m. The recordings were released after the Observer, WBTV and WSOC went to court Thursday to call for their release.
The police department had filed a motion to prevent the release of the recordings — the first such motion in at least 10 years, a CMPD attorney said. The recordings are public record in North Carolina.
During the hearing Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Bill Bunting said the tapes contain a “particularly prejudicial statement that’s prejudicial against the defendant.”
Corder’s defense attorney, George Laughrun, said he worried the tapes would have an outsize influence on public opinion if they’re one of the only pieces of information available before Corder’s trial.
In deciding to release the tapes, Judge Jesse Caldwell said jurors are typically trusted to put aside any outside information they’ve heard, and jury selection can help lawyers determine which jurors can do that.
Corder’s case brings up questions about North Carolina’s “castle doctrine” law, experts said. The law, which was re-written in 2011, discusses a person’s right to use defensive force if they’re the lawful occupant of a workplace, home or car.
The classic example of “castle doctrine” would be a case where somebody was in their home, another person broke in and the homeowner shot them, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government professor John Rubin said. The homeowner could claim they feared death or serious injury and so they “defended the castle.”
One major difference between that classic case and this one is that Corder was away from the store when the break-in began.
The state statute does not define “lawful occupant,” Rubin said.
“That is one question – whether the person actually has to be occupying (the property) at the time,” Rubin said.
The law also presumes that an intruder is intending to commit a forceful or violent act, so Rubin said lawyers could potentially rebut that section by arguing that the intruder only wanted to commit a property crime.
Courts are still sorting out the castle doctrine law, Rubin said, so some of the interpretation is up in the air.
Bart Menser, a former deputy district attorney for Mecklenburg County who retired in 2017, said the charge was likely a close decision for prosecutors.
One exception in the castle doctrine applies to intruders who have left the workplace, home or car. It’s not clear whether Anderson had left the business by the time he was shot, though Corder’s second call indicates he was in the process of leaving.
“Just looking at that statute without knowing the details of what the business looked like and where the person was in relation to the owner — that statute makes it look like if they’re out of the place and really trying to get away, you don’t get a chance to nail ‘em,” Menser said.
Corder’s next court date has not been scheduled yet, according to court records.