WILMINGTON, N.C. – A former New Hanover County sheriff's deputy was charged with second-degree murder Monday in the fatal shooting of a teenager accused of stealing two PlayStation 3 video game systems, authorities said.
A grand jury indicted former Cpl. Christopher Long, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff's office who was fired last week, District Attorney Ben David announced Monday. Two other deputies were cleared of any wrongdoing.
"The grand jury has spoken and this matter is now in the courts," David said.
Long, 34, was among several deputies present when 18-year-old Peyton Strickland was shot to death Dec. 1 as deputies and police from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington executed a search warrant on a house he rented in Wilmington.
"This indictment is an important first step in holding accountable everyone responsible for Peyton's death — but this is only a first step," his parents, Don and Kathy Strickland, said in a written statement. "None of these actions can bring Peyton back to us, but perhaps they can save someone else's child."
Strickland and two friends, Braden Riley and Ryan Mills, were suspected of beating a UNC Wilmington student and robbing him of two PlayStation 3s worth more than $600 each. One of his roommates said Strickland, a Cape Fear Community College student, was unarmed but may have been holding a video game controller when he went to the door.
An autopsy report said the fatal bullet hit Strickland in the head after hitting another object. Strickland also was shot near his right shoulder.
Officers also shot Strickland's German shepherd, which bled to death outside the house.
According to search warrants, authorities believed the raid would be a high risk because of pictures on the Internet that showed Mills posing with guns, and UNC Wilmington police said they had received information Mills was known to carry a weapon.
New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey said Long had been a good officer.
"It's a tough case. A family has lost its son. I would ask you to keep them in your prayers, also law enforcement," Causey said. "We're human beings and we make mistakes."
Long was expected to appear in court later Monday.
Two other sheriff's deputies who were placed on leave — Detective Larry Robinson, 34, and Sgt. Greg Johnson, 39 — were cleared in the shooting, David said.
Riley, 21, of Apex, and Mills, 20, of Durham, have been charged with armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and breaking and entering a motor vehicle. They were arrested after the raid.
Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation testified before the grand jury but no details were provided.