20-year-old black man killed by neighborhood watch ‘vigilante’ moved from Harlem to NC for better life

A young black man who was allegedly shot to death by a neigborhood watch ‘vigilante’ while leaving a house party in North Carolina had moved from Harlem as a baby because his mother had wanted a better life for her three sons.

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was killed early Sunday when a man living two doors down from the party called police to complain of ‘hoodlums’ in his neighborhood, and then fired a shotgun out of his garage, according to authorities.

The suspect, Chad Cameron Copley, has been charged with murder.

   Chad Cameron Copley (pictured) has been charged with murder

Thomas was described by his mother Simone Butler-Thomas as loving, funny, and so careful that his family called him ‘Safety 101.’

‘This man took my baby’s life,’ Butler-Thomas, said in a phone interview from her home in Louisburg.

‘He didn’t deserve this. No child deserves it,’ she said while stifling sobs.

‘These people with guns, they just figure that when there’s a bunch of black kids, they’re hoodlums. These kids were not hoodlums.

‘They were raised in families with mothers and fathers. They went to school. They were young.’

Butler-Thomas was born and raised in New York, but she left with her three sons in 2001 for their safety because she thought Harlem was too dangerous.

Thomas is pictured smiling widely in a dress shirt and black apron after a 2015 event he worked as a caterer

Chad Cameron Copley, 39, has been charged with murder. Above, he is pictured being led into a courtroom at the Wake County Judicial Center in Raleigh

‘I brought my kids down here when they were babies because I didn’t want to have my children raised in New York. I wanted them to have a life and be safe,’ she said, her voice cracking.

‘We tried to come back to New York a couple of times, but they liked the South better — up until now. It was easy living, nice people. But not anymore,’ she added to the New York Daily News.

Thomas had a job at McDonalds, a girlfriend attending East Carolina University, and was weeks away from moving into his first apartment, she said.

‘He’s a loving, loving boy. He was funny,’ she said. ‘We called him ‘Safety 101′ because he wouldn’t start the car unless everybody had their seatbelts on and their cell phones away.’

She added: ‘He loved life. He loved his family. He loved his friends. He was not a street boy.’

The 20-year-old was walking with a friend, David Walker, to their car parked down the street early Sunday when the shot came from the suspect’s house, said Butler-Thomas, who spoke with friends and witnesses to find out what happened.

She said the young men had arrived at the house party to find it had spilled outside, and decided to leave after about 15 minutes because the friend had heard there were no girls there.

Raleigh Police said Copley, 39, was arrested hours after he fired a shotgun from inside his garage and hit the victim.

Jail records show he was being held without bond on a murder charge.

Copley’s lawyer, Raymond Tarlton, asked that his client not be judged until more facts are available.

‘It’s under investigation. We’d caution restraint and ask folks not to rush to judgment,’ he said by phone, declining to discuss any details.

Copley, who apparently called police to complain about 'hoodlums' near his house, was charged with murder after he shot and killed a black man outside, authorities said

During a 911 call from Copley’s house shortly before 1am on Sunday, a man said ‘we’ve got a bunch of hoodlums out here racing,’ and told the dispatcher he was taking action.

‘I am locked and loaded. I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood,’ the man said. He asked for officers to come, but refused to give his address and hung up.

On a second call from the Copley home about seven minutes later, the man said he fired a shot, and that someone was hit.

‘We have a lot of people outside of our house yelling and shouting profanity. I yelled at them ‘please leave the premises.’

‘They were showing firearms so I fired a warning shot. And, uh, we got somebody that got hit.’

Asked who was outside, the caller said: ‘There’s black males outside my freaking house with firearms.’

Walker denied this.

‘It was silent,’ he told The News & Observer in Raleigh. ‘No fighting and no arguing and no one waving guns.’

The party’s host, Jalen Lewis, also denied seeing anyone with a gun among the 50 or so people at his party.

Thomas was near Copley’s mailbox when he was fatally shot, he told WTVD.

Police spokesman Laura Hourigan said state law prevents authorities from confirming the caller’s identity.

No one answered the door at Copley’s tree-shaded, two-story home in a northern subdivision of Raleigh on Tuesday.

In the door of the attached garage, cardboard replaced a shattered glass window pane whose shards remained on the driveway, which runs roughly 40 feet to the mailbox at the street.

GoFundMe page set up by Thomas’ mother seeking donations for funeral expenses shows him smiling widely in a dress shirt and black apron after a 2015 event he worked as a caterer.

Source: The DailyMail

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