RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) - The trial for a Raleigh man charged with murder after a young man was shot and killed in August 2016 in an act the man claimed was self-defense began Monday.
Chad Copley, 40, is accused of killing Kouren-Rodney Thomas after firing his shotgun from the garage of his Singleleaf Lane home on Aug. 7, 2016.
Attorneys are questioning sixty prospective jurors in order to find 12 people that will be able to decide whether or not Copley will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Both the prosecution and defense are asking potential jurors about race, gun control and their familiarity of the case.
Many of those being questioned already know a good bit about this case due to the media coverage of the killing.
Copley's defense team will try to convince a jury that Copley acted in self-defense they claim the homeowner was under a violent assault by validated gang members.
In a 911 a call Copley said, "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."
About seven minutes after that call, Copley called 911 again.
"We have a house…we have a lot of people outside of our house yelling and shouting obscenities. I yelled at them 'please leave the premises.' They were showing firearms, so I fired a warning shot and we got someone that got hit," he said.
"I don't know if they are shot, I fired my warning shot like I am supposed to by law. They do have firearms and I am trying to protect myself and family," Copley said. "I don't know who they are…There is a park right down the road."
Copley's attorneys argue the shooting was an act of self-defense and Copley was protecting his self and family after a group of individuals gathered outside his home.
"The defendant specifically alleges that his home was under a violent assault by validated gang members of the 'G-shine Bloods,'" according to a motion filed by Chad Copley's attorney. "The defendant was not the aggressor, and the defendant did not use excessive force. Alternatively, the defendant reserves the right to assert the defense of accident."
The case has shined a light on North Carolina's stand your ground laws — meaning a person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force in limited circumstances.
North Carolina has a "stand your ground" law and "castle doctrine" law but only if someone believes that such force is necessary.
North Carolina's stand your ground law states a person is allowed to use deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if that person "reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another."
The state's castle doctrine law gives someone the right to use deadly force to defend his or her home, vehicle or workplace if there's "a reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm."
"In both cases the defense attorneys are going to have to show that the shooter had a reasonable fear for his life," said Campbell Law Professor Greg Wallace. "They're going to have to prove that their client is not an aggressor. You cannot just shoot someone for standing in your yard."
Thomas' family hired high-profile civil rights attorney Justin Bamberg, who called Copley "George Zimmerman 2.0," in a press conference just a few days after the shooting.
Bamberg has represented the family of Walter Scott, who was shot and killed by a North Charleston police officer, and the family of Alton Sterling, the Baton Rouge man whose shooting by police was captured on video.
In 2012, an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in a Florida neighborhood by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in 2013.
Copley told 911 dispatchers he was a neighborhood watchman, just like Zimmerman claimed.
When asked why he compared the Zimmerman and Copley cases, Bamberg said, "There are similarities, but I have a feeling there will be a different outcome."