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Durham Teen Killed in Wilmington, NC

Deputies Kill Unarmed Student

In a departure for NC Trial Law Blog, I am posting on a recent criminal case from Wilmington, NC.  The story has been heavily covered in the news, but because it concerns a family friend, I am covering the situation.

On Friday night, December 1, 2006, Wilmington, NC law enforcement agents from the New Hanover Sheriff's Department and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Peyton Strickland, Age 18.  The officers allegedly thought that serving the warrant on the community college student might pose a danger, so they brought in a heavily armed and armored "S.W.A.T" team.

The details are not completely clear at this point, but it appears that the deputies attempted to gain entry to the home by force, and shots were fired by the deputies.  At least five shots were fired by the deputies, and according to the medical examiner's initial findings, the bullet that struck Peyton Stricklend in the head, killing him, entered in a sideways fashion, indicating that it had passed through the door of the small ranch house.  Peyton died a short time later.  He was unarmed and attempting to answer the door when he was shot.  Deputies also shot and killed his pet dog, Blaze.

The Raleigh News & Observer story can be read here.

Investigation Underway

The case is being investigated by District Attorney Ben David and the SBI.  The details of the investigation are supposed to be released next week.  Currently, the deputies are on standard administrative leave and have not been charged with any crimes.

Many Questions to Be Answered

The details that have been released at this time are, quite frankly, shocking to me.  Of course, we need to see the entire report and investigation before making final conclusions about what happened, but if the facts that have been released are any indication of what happened that night, law enforcment in Wilmington have a lot of explaining to do.

Some questions to be answered:

1)  Did the law enforcment officials who shot Peyton even know who was behind the door?

2)  What triggered the initial firing of the weapons?

3)  Was the amount of force used by the deputies necessary to serve an arrest warrant on an 18 year old college student?  Did the deputies attempt to contact the people in the house before they entered, guns blazing?

4)  Did the deputies even knock on the door before they attempted forced entry?  Did they say anything before attempting to enter?

5)  According to the public records from the entry to the home, the SBI recovered at least seven shell casings from the scene of the shooting.  Did the deputies really fire seven bullets into a closed door, not knowing who, or what stood behind that door?

Law Enforcement Leaks?

The news of Peyton's tragic death has created quite a stir in the Blogosphere.  The local newspaper, the Wilmington Star, has hundreds of posts to their disussion forum on the topic of the death.  In the posts, several posters claim to be in law enforcement and have "leaked" information which appears to justify the shooting and the amount of force used.  The posts attempt to malign Peyton Strickland and the occupants of the house, painting them as trouble makers and hinting that "the truth" will justify the actions of the officers.  Of course, on the Internet, anyone can post and claim to be "on the inside" so we may never know the source of the posts, but if they are, in fact, from "inside" the law enforcement community, clearly this is a disturbing trend and an attempt to interfere with the investigation.


I've known Peyton and his family for thirteen years.  I knew Peyton to be a great kid, talented, funny, and a loved member of a fantastic and supportive family.  Of course, he was 18, and 18 year olds will do dumb things as part of growing up (I know that I did), but Peyton was not a thug.  I know that law enforcement can not know all of the intimate details of a person's life before they ever meet them, but they did know that Peyton was a young college student, accused of stealing a video game system, with no criminal convictions.  I know that I'm not exactly neutral in this, but given the facts that I have read, the entire way this warrant was executed seems to be a disaster of epic proportions and possibly criminal.  This situation also reflects on the general state of affairs in our country where the fine line between public safety and public liberty is teetering out of balance.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all involved in this tragedy, and I am confident that District Attorney Ben David will get to the truth.

Chris Nichols

Nichols Law Firm 1.800.906.5984


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Nicely put.

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