Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Courtland Benjamin Smith
You should take 17 minutes out of your life and listen to the last 17 minutes of a 21 year old UNC college student's life.
Listen to the entire 911 call made by Cortland Smith.
The 911 dispatcher, the young women who took the call tries to understand Cortland by coaxing answers from him. Her wonderful Kelley Picker voice radiates warmth and compassion. She knows he’s drunk and her repeated grammatically incorrect “Where are you at” is adorable.
Listening to this rambling 17 minute call, it is hard to imagine that it will all end in a hail of bullets.
The 911 operator tries to help him, and he was for the most part he is compliant to her requests for information. He acknowledges that he is drunk and shouldn’t be driving, and then he adds that he’s going to kill himself.
But it seems in his context he is saying: “I’m driving down I-40 and I’m going to kill myself”.
His admission is that driving drunk is not smart, which is far from saying I'm going to kill myself as has been reported.
It is clear the Smith is simply plastered, he is not suicidal, angry or aggressive. His speech is often unintelligible but he is calm and unfailingly polite.
He is not wailing, raving or even nonsensical.
Then he says he was wondering if someone could ride with him. But he is so intoxicated normal reasoning is not able to kick in.
Early on he tells her he has a “Glock and Wesson” gun, errrr 9 mm gun. He’s sober enough to know that this is a problem and says he’s thinking about putting it on the passenger seat.
She tried so hard to help him. But he was so wasted. Her sweet voice would have convinced any sober person to pull over, and throw the keys out of the car, grab another beer and ask her for a date.
"I really appreciate what you're doing," he tells the dispatcher at one point.
We ask our children not to drive drunk, to call a cab, call mom or dad and if they find themselves in a situation like Cortland Smith did. We tell them to call for help like Cortland Smith did.
The end of the tape is chilling.
Before the tape stops you can hear Cortland Smith say "whoa" several times and in the back ground the officers shouting commands no doubt with weapons drawn. Then someone yells “Were the “F” are you going?”
There is a sound like he is being pulled back out of the car, a shrill noise and the released tape goes silent.
What is not heard is the sound of gun fire as Cortland Smith exits the car the second time perhaps with a gun.
No doubt the officer over reacted and emptied his weapon hitting Smith 4 times.
No doubt Cortland Smith meant no harm to the officers.
No doubt the 911 dispatcher will never get over what happened.
Update August 27, 2009 7:58 PM
The newly released recording from the Archdale Police Department makes it clear that the officers knew little more about Smith than that he was suicidal and might be armed. It includes one officer’s response when Smith is shot, but no gunfire can be heard.
“Stay in the car, stay in the car,” one officer says.
“Subject not getting in the car,” says another.
“Subject down! Subject down! Shots fired, shots fired!”
Then an officer comes on, using standard police code for an ambulance.
“We’ve got subject secured. We’ve got shots fired, subject down. Have 10-52 respond.”
He then asks that 102 (Deputy Chief) be contacted.
The last words on the recording are “High Point Hospital.” The hospital where 20 minutes later Smith would be declared dead.
Additional Audio Links
Update September 1, 2009
SBI continues to review Cortland Smith shooting. Archdale police chief has been quoted as saying the facts are still under review, while the Raleigh News and Observer has filed a FOIA request for release of police video of the traffic stop of Cortland Smith. The matter may be held up for another week. Rumors continue to surface regarding the officer who killed Smith.
More to follow.