(Reuters) - A North Carolina jury on Thursday convicted a white homeowner of first-degree murder for the 2016 shooting death of an unarmed black man, an attorney for the slain man’s family said.
Chad Copley, 40, was found guilty of fatally shooting 20-year-old Kouren Thomas outside his Raleigh home, said attorney Justin Bamberg, who was in the Wake County courtroom for the two-week trial.
An email message left for Copley’s attorney was not immediately returned. However, during closing arguments defense lawyer Raymond Tarlton said Copley had acted in self-defense and the police investigation of the incident was shoddy, according to the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper.
Copley faces life without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on Friday.
Bamberg called Copley “George Zimmerman 2.0,” referring to the man who fatally shot black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer who maintained he killed the unarmed Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman’s acquittal of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges sparked civil rights protests.
Raleigh police said Copley fired a shotgun blast from the garage of his house into a crowd of people outside a nearby home where there was a party, striking and killing Thomas.
Copley had called 911 to report he was on “neighborhood watch” and that there were armed “hoodlums” who were racing on his street, police said.
“I am locked and loaded,” the caller said, according to a recording provided by the Raleigh Police Department. “I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood.”
Bamberg said the Thomas family was pleased with the verdict, and that the “only hoodlum there that day was Chad Copley.”
A mixed-race jury of eight women and four men deliberated less than two hours before returning with the guilty verdict, Bamberg said.
Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Leslie Adler