The fatal shooting of Courtland Smith by an Archdale police officer was “legally justified and lawful,” Randolph County District Attorney Gar- land Yates said in December.
Yates said in a news release that Smith, a UNC junior who was president of
Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, advanced on two officers and ignored their
orders to stop advancing after Smith was stopped at an exit on I- 85 early on
the morning of Aug. 23.
According to autopsy results, Smith died of multiple gunshot wounds. The
21-year-old from Houston was pronounced dead that morning.
“It is clear from all the evidence that Officer J.P. Flinchum reasonably
The report from the district attorney’s office states that when officers
believed that he and Officer Jones were in imminent threat of death or serious
bodily injury when [Flinchum] shot Courtland Smith,” the report stated. “Mr.
Smith aggressively advanced on the officers, forcing them to retreat to the rear
of their patrol cars twice. He ignored officers’ repeated and clear orders to stop
advancing on them and to show his hands.”
Smith was pulled over after he called police and told a dispatcher he was
contemplating suicide, that he had a gun and that he had been drinking.
Flinchum and Jones, in separate cars, spotted Smith, he was “weaving errati-
cally” and traveling about 90 miles per hour.
Smith’s car was stopped at 4: 54 a.m. His cell phone continued to pick up
the sounds of the officers approaching the vehicle. Smith is heard speaking at
the end of the tape, which lasted 15 minutes, 14 seconds.
The report states that about 15 seconds after Smith’s Toyota 4Runner came
to a stop, Smith got out of the vehicle and that both officers drew their
weapons and ordered him to stay in the car. “Mr. Smith placed both hands
behind his back and ignored officers’ commands to show his hands,” the report
states. When the officers took cover behind one of their cars, Smith continued
to advance toward them and showed one hand but kept the other behind his
At one point Smith was warned that “he was about to get shot.” Smith
The SBI has custody of a videotape taken from one of the officer’s cars and
leaned into the driver’s side of his vehicle, then again advanced on the officers.
Flinchum fired five shots after Smith “drew his right hand from behind his
back while holding something black in color.”
After the investigation was turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation,
a BlackBerry phone was found next to where Smith fell, and a half-empty
750 milliliter bottle of whiskey was found in his vehicle. The investigation
revealed that Smith had e-mailed his family “indicating suicidal intent.”
On the 911 tape, the caller tells the dispatcher that “I’m trying to kill
myself.” He said he had a 9 mm pistol with him. He apparently was confused,
thinking he was heading west on I- 40. When the dispatcher asked him
whether he had been drinking, he said, “A little bit.” The conversation lasted
more than 10 minutes. The dispatcher repeatedly asked him to pull over.
has not released the tape.
Judge Vance Bradford Long concluded that release of the video would
The fraternity has been sanctioned for alcoholic beverage violations at a
undermine the investigation. Long wrote in the ruling that the video did not
show Smith being shot “but does portray the interaction between Mr. Smith
and the officers immediately prior to the shooting and actions taken by the
officers after the shooting.”
Smith’s parents, Pharr ’ 77 and Susan Smith, have filed two motions with the
court asking that the tape not be released.
party at which Smith was present hours before he was shot.
Shooting of Courtland Smith
Justified, Randolph DA Says
Grisham to Speak
John Grisham, an iconic figure in American popular fiction writing, will be the May 2010 Commence- ment speaker.
A lawyer who started writing thrillers in his spare
time and now is the author of 23 novels, including The
Firm and The Pelican Brief, Grisham’s family also has ties
to UNC. His daughter Shea earned an education
degree in 2008 and teaches in Chapel Hill. Grisham’s
wife, Renee, is listed as a UNC junior who is expected
to become a senior in January. She previously studied at
the University of Mississippi.
Chancellor Holden Thorp ’ 86 chose Grisham in consultation with the University’s Commencement speaker
which is made up of
an equal number of
students and faculty.
“John is an
who will have a
for our graduates
and their families,”
Thorp said. “His
prowess with the
written and spoken
word makes him an
excellent choice for
speaker. He has an
inspirational story to
Grisham, a native
of Jonesboro, Ark.,
holds an accounting
degree from Mississippi State University and a 1981
law degree from the University of Mississippi. He practiced law in his home state for nearly 10 years and also
served in the state’s House of Representatives. He
started his first book, A Time to Kill, after hearing
courtroom testimony in a rape case.
The Firm was the bestselling novel of 1991. He took
a hiatus from writing in 1996 to honor a previous
commitment to represent the family of a railroad
brakeman who was killed on the job; the case earned
him the biggest verdict of his career. He returned to
writing, most recently publishing a collection of short
stories, Ford County. Nine of his books have been made
Grisham participated in the N.C. Literary Festival
on campus in September, delivering the first keynote