RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — The Raleigh homeowner charged with murder in the shooting death of 20-year-old Kouren-Rodney Thomas on Aug. 7, 2016, took the stand Tuesday morning and admitted to the prosecution that he lied to 911 about what happened.
Copley was expected to take the stand at some point this week, perhaps as early as Monday. He made his first appearance on the witness stand around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
When questioned by the defense Tuesday morning, Copley testified that he has extensive loss prevention training from working in the grocery store industry. He said he worked with police a lot due to robberies at the stores.
CBS North Carolina's David Hurst, who is in court for the trial, said that Copley appeared relaxed as the defense started by asking him about his family, what he does for a living and how he ended up in North Carolina.
Copley had previously told police he was defending his home and family when he shot Thomas from inside his garage. Thomas, who was leaving a party in Copley's neighborhood, died as a result of the shooting.
Copley said there were people in his yard yelling profanities and at least one of them showed a weapon. Prosecutors argued that Copley's life was never in danger.
The defendant said he woke up a little after midnight the night of the shooting and heard some people revving their engines outside. He said he asked them to keep it down and they yelled back, "Shut the [expletive] up, go inside white boy."
He claimed he interacted with them from his upstairs bedroom window and three of the individuals flashed weapons at him.
Copley said he believed his son was involved and that the people outside were possibly his friends. He planned to go outside and confront the group, but his wife told him to call 911. He testified that he then grabbed his Mossberg pump-action shotgun from under the bed, loaded it with five rounds and went downstairs to his garage where his son was staying.
His son claimed he didn't know the people outside. Copley said he and his son then looked outside and noticed the party down the street. He said he then sent his son upstairs and looked back outside to see two people standing in his driveway by his wife's van.
Copley testified that he yelled at the two people, "Leave the premises. I have a firearm. PD is on the way." At that point, he said, "one of them reached for his gun and so I shot him."
According to testimony, Copley said the person he shot was wearing a red shirt and a rad hat, possibly an Atlanta Hawks hat. Thomas was wearing a red N.C. State hat the night of the shooting.
Before Copley's testimony today, his defense attorneys had acknowledged their client fired the fatal shotgun blast, but said that Copley acted in self-defense they claim the he was under a violent assault by validated gang members.
"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."
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.
Although Copley told the dispatcher that he and his neighbors would be patrolling the neighborhood in response to the crowd outside, he said on the stand that he really didn't have a relationship with his neighbors.
"I usually kept to myself. I wasn't really a hangout-with-the-neighbors kind of guy," he said.
Later during his testimony, the defense asked Copley if he had any regrets.
"Yes. I should have listened to my wife. She told me not to go and make a big deal out of it. I should have listened to her," he said.
The defense said around 10:45 a.m. that they had no further questions.
The prosecution rested their case on Feb. 16 after calling just 10 of its 79 witnesses. The prosecution began to cross-examine Copley after an approximately 15-minute recess.
Almost immediately upon cross-examination, Copley's earlier testimony began to fall apart.
The first thing the prosecution asked about was his show of emotion on the stand earlier in the morning.
"That's the most emotion you've shown since all this has happened, right?"
"Yes, sir," Copley replied.
"You didn't cry like this when Kouren Thomas was dying in your yard?," the prosecution asked.
"No, sir," he replied.
The prosecution then asked Copley about his claim to the 911 operator that his shot was a "warning shot."
Copley admitted it was a lie.
"At first I didn't think I killed him, I messed up by calling it a warning shot," he said.
He then admitted to also lying to the 911 dispatcher about people "racing up and down the street," the fact that he was on neighborhood watch, he had his neighbors with him and that there were people vandalizing the neighborhood.
He was then questioned about how his story has changed. Copley admitted that while he was being questioned by police, he never told them anyone outside had a gun.
He also admitted to escalating the situation. Copley testified that when he initially yelled at the people from his bedroom window, he showed them his shotgun.