911 call released in student shooting

August 26, 2009 9:17:29 PM PDT
Authorities released a recording of a 911 call Wednesday made by a University of North Carolina student minutes before he was shot and killed by a police officer in Randolph County.Click to listen to the recording (caution, graphic language)

Courtland Smith, 20, of Houston, Texas, died Sunday morning along Interstate 85 after he called 911 to report he was feeling suicidal.

"I'm trying to kill myself on I-40," Smith told the 911 operator.

Smith's speech is slow, halting, and slurred.

The operator begins to ask Smith a series of questions to try and figure out where he was and what kind of car he was driving.

Smith also tells the operator he's armed.

"I got a 9mm pistol with me," he says.

"Have you been drinking tonight?" asks the operator.

"Yea, a little bit," Smith responds.

The operator tries to get Smith to pull over to the side of the highway, but he refuses.

Smith also seems to indicate he sent some kind of suicide message to his family.

"I e-mailed everything anyone needed to know to my parents," he says.

The dispatcher continues to talk to Smith until officers catch up to his Toyota 4-Runner in Randolph County. The recording is cut off before the shooting.

The NC State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death. The Archdale Police Department has placed the officer who shot Smith - Jeremy Paul Flinchum - on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. A second officer at the scene - whose name was not released - is also on leave.

Smith was the chapter president of the UNC-Chapel Hill Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity chapter. A Delta Kappa Episilon alumnus said Smith set his career path his freshman year. The pre-med student wanted to be a pediatric cardiologist.

A fraternity alumnus and DKE spokesperson, Chris Rice, said in a statement Wednesday that after hearing the 911 tape, they were saddened and surprised given the last contact they had with him at the fraternity.

"The last information we had on Courtland was that when he left a party at the fraternity at approximately 12:30 a.m. and went to his off ?campus residence he seemed to be fine," Rice said in the statement. "Courtland, who was 21-years-old, talked to his roommates at approximately 2 a.m. and he sounded normal. This statement was also provided by the roommates to the authorities."

He said the group continues to grieve over the loss of Smith, and said 30 of his brothers would attend his funeral service in Houston, Texas on Friday.

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