RALEIGH, N.C. – A white homeowner who shot an unarmed black man after complaining of "hoodlums" in the neighborhood said Tuesday he thought the loud, armed people in the street were friends of his own troubled, drug-taking son until he expressed fear about them.
Chad Copley, 40, testified at his murder trial that he was defending his family by firing at men approaching the attached garage that served as his son's bedroom. The young man had returned home only a couple of hours earlier after being gone for about two weeks when a shouting crowd gathered around engine-revving cars in the street, Copley testified.
But Copley admitted under later questioning by prosecutor Patrick Latour that he lied to police nearly a dozen times, including false accounts of people racing on his small residential street and vandalizing property and saying he fired a warning shot before killing 20-year-old Kouren Thomas.
Copley testified that soon after midnight in August 2016 he opened the bedroom window of his Raleigh home and shouted an expletive at the crowd while demanding they quiet down.
"I was thinking that's my son out there," Copley said.
They responded with angry expletives, and Copley said he saw three men holding guns. One pointed a gun at his second-floor window, Copley said. Copley said he loaded the shotgun hidden under his bed and went downstairs, assuming he'd order his son to ask his buddies to stop.
"He's a hoodlum as well," Copley said, explaining the word to him means someone who doesn't care about how their actions affect other people.
Instead, Copley testified, his son said he didn't know the men outside, who were now in his yard and nearing the garage. Copley surprised the intruders by firing the fatal shotgun blast through the garage's glass window.
"He reached for his gun and I shot him," Copley said.
Prosecutors said Copley appeared bent on violence when told 911 operators he was "locked and loaded" to confront people he described as armed "hoodlums."
Copley admitted under Latour's questioning that he never said before Tuesday's testimony that any of the men outside his home had a gun or pointed a weapon in his direction.
The fatal shooting came at the end of a miserable day for Copley, he testified.
He was disappointed and worried about his missing son. He'd had an argument with his wife early the previous day and she'd left the house with their two young daughters until evening, leaving Copley brooding. After she returned and the girls were asleep, the couple tried to make up but he couldn't perform in bed. Another loud gathering at the home two doors away was spilling into the street.
Copley admitted that since shooting Thomas, he's changed his version of what happened several times.
"The reason I lied to the police was because I was a scared. I was being a coward," Copley said.
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