The Reason People Are Comparing This Man to George Zimmerman

August 10th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

A self described neighborhood watchman called the police and then shot and killed a young black man to, in his words, protect his neighborhood. This isn't the infamous story of George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin, but a new story of a "stand your ground" law and a dead black man.

Kouren-Rodney Thomas, 20, was killed by Chad Copley in Raleigh, North Carolina on Sunday, according to a statement sent to ATTN: by Laura Hourigan at the Raleigh Police Department. Copley, 39, called police to report "hoodlums" in his neighborhood.

“It's Singleleaf Lane. We’ve got a bunch of hoodlums out here racing,” Copley said on a 911 recording provided to ATTN: by the RPD. “I am locked and loaded. I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood.”

Copley then went to his garage, and while still inside, fired a shot that hit Thomas who was outside, according to the RPD.

Copley called the emergency line back after the shooting and said that there had been a group of black men outside his house with firearms when he fired his weapon. Police didn't find any guns, according to the New York Daily News. Hourigan from the RPD wouldn't confirm whether that was true or not.

Copley was arrested and charged with first degree murder.

However his post-shooting 911 call seemed to set up the same defense Zimmerman successfully used after he killed Martin: a "stand your ground" law.

“Well, I don’t know if they were shot or not, Ma’am,” Copley said on a call to 911 after she shot Thomas. “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.”

Besides North Carolina and Florida, at least 24 other states have some version of a "stand your ground" law, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The law in North Carolina is outlined on the website of local law firm Kirk Kirk Howell Cutler and Thomas.

"A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat in any place he or she has the lawful right to be if either of the following applies:

  • "You reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.
  • "You are in your home, vehicle or workplace and that the person against whom the defensive force was used was an unlawful intruder or was attempting to forcibly and unlawfully enter one of the above."


There is no reference to a warning shot that Copley claimed was required by law in his 911 call. The critical difference between "stand your ground" laws and common self defense laws is in the name. "Stand your ground" laws take away the requirement to retreat before using deadly force, according to The Washington Post. You can literally stand your ground.

The killers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis used "stand your ground" laws as a defense.

Rally for Trayvon Martin

Zimmerman used Florida's version of the law to justify shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. Like Copley, he called 911 to report a "suspicious guy" in his Sanford, Florida neighborhood. Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher that Martin had "his hand in his waistband" and specified that "he's a black male." He followed Martin on the street, and after a struggle, fatally shot him. Zimmerman was found not guilty in the killing of Martin, sparking national outrage and debate about "stand your ground" laws.

Rally for Trayvon Martin

Jordan Davis was also 17, unarmed, and in Florida when he was shot and killed the same year as Martin. Michael Dunn asked a group of black teenagers, including Davis, to turn down their music in Jacksonville, Florida. He then opened fire on the vehicle multiple times, killing Davis, according to CNN. Dunn used Florida's "stand you ground" law as a defense but he was found guilty.

However Davis' mother, Lucia McBath, wrote a column in USA Today in 2014 blaming Florida's "stand your ground" law for the death of her son.

"Florida's 'stand your ground' law is the reason my son is dead," she wrote. She said that the law gave Dunn the confidence to think he could shoot her son.

"'Stand your ground' laws empower emotional people to end an argument with a gun, and until these laws are rolled back we will continue to suffer more senseless tragedies like the one my family has endured," she wrote.

RELATED: George Zimmerman Is Auctioning the Gun He Used to Kill Trayvon Martin