The white vigilante who shot and killed a 20-year-old Black party-goer has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Chad Copley was convicted after a two-week trial and jurors deliberated for less than two hours before making the decision, according to the Associated Press. He was found guilty of premeditated murder after fatally firing upon unarmed Kouren-Rodney Thomas in Raleigh, N.C., in 2016.
Thomas had been attending a party near Copley’s home when the incident occurred, where Copley claimed he was part of a neighborhood watch group that didn’t exist.
Prosecutors said the 40-year-old seemed intent on violence when CBS North Carolina reported he told 911 dispatchers, “We got a bunch of hoodlums out here racing. I am locked and loaded and I am going outside to secure my neighborhood. You need to send PD as quickly as possible. I am going to secure my neighborhood. I am on the neighborhood watch. I am going to have my neighbors with me.”
Defense attorneys recognized their client shot the fatal gunshot but claimed he feared for his safety and was protected by the state’s defense of habitation law.
After the verdict, Simone Thomas, the victim’s mother, said tearfully that seeing it unfold was “so hard to go through.”
“Everyday for the past 18 months, not knowing if my son was gonna get justice and he did today,” she told reporters. “And I’m glad about it. And I just hope later on people will always remember that you just can’t take matters into your own hands.”