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.

No doubt

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.


Anonymous said...

Cedar....c'mon bro you are better than this. IF Mr Smith had a weapon and IF he pointed it at the officers, they did what they had to do. None of us were there so lets not rush to judgement. A few years ago a friend of mine shot and killed a suspect. The suspect was shot in the back and the community was outraged. What folks didnt realize was that, as the suspect ran, he brandished a weapon and crossed his arm across his chest with the weapon in an effort to point the weapon between his other arm and side as he ran. This move, although his back was facing the officer, made him a live threat and target.

Lets get all the facts before we assume. Just because he was an upstanding person doesnt mean he could have made a mistake that would be his life. David Crespi is a fine example of someone on top and losing it all.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong, I like a beer (or several) as much as anybody, but the real tragedy starts with the young man letting the intoxication get out of hand. I feel sorry for everyone involved. The police officer who probably did what he had to do, the parents who face unimaginable days ahead, and the young man who left this world way to early all are affected by his decision to let the partying get out of hand. Ultimately, we are all responsible for teaching the generation behind us to be responsible people.

Cedar Posts and Life Floating By said...

I'm certian that Mr. Smith indeed had a weapon, that he was not suicidal, just simply so drunk that he couldn't comprehend the officers instructions.

When he exited the car with the gun even though he couldn't have hit the broad side of a barn the officer was scared and fired his weapon.

We've all seen the movies where the cops take dead center aim to take out a subject. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The officer who fired was more than likely on the run firing, while trying to duck and cover.

Smith was no doubt hit multiple times at very close range.

The fact that only one officer fired pretty much confirms one of them panicked.

As much as I hate to point blame at the officer, and the fact that Smith at least at that moment presented a clear and present danger and perhaps deadly force was justified, it still doesn't make it right.

There was a huge failure to communicate.

Anonymous said...

WOW, my last days of viewing Cedar posts. Unless you've seen the video or you were there, you have not right to put blame on the officer. Alot of my friends and I viewed this site on a daily basis, but after this stunt you pulled it will be the last. All I can hope for is alot of others will do the same. While your at it Cedar why dont u go sit with Mr. Montgomery through his trial, I guess your on his side too.

Anonymous said...

I think Cedar is calling it as he see's it.

Let's face it the SBI, Archdale and Guilford County are releasing the details bit by bit.

It's right out of the PR spin manual.

I think Cedar is right and officer Flinchum may have panicked.

Would the result been the same with the NCHP?

I'm not sure. I've rolled up on two DWI check points in the last couple of weeks. I have a 45m Springfield and a NC CCP.

The local boys flipped out one deputy drew his weapon and I was cuffed while they ran the numbers.

Two days later the at a HP check point I expected the same treatment when I enformed the trooper I was carrying a weapon.

His reply "really me too"....

Anonymous said...

Cedar have you ever fired a weapon under stress? Its a place in time where you lose a lot of your auditory and peripheral abilties. And this isnt by choice. The human brain makes this happen to focus on whats at hand. cops have to deal with that. Who cares if the guy was drunk and couldnt hit the broad side of a barn? If he had blood in his body to pull a trigger that bullet could go anywhere...and cops usually end up catching it. How dare you justify against an officer because the subject was drunk? A threat is a valid threat...period. You Cedar, I though more of you. I guess you can go ahead and sit behind your little computer and type about it because we all know you could never do that job. A cop gets mere seconds to make a choice and you have teh LUXURY of a lifetime to tear it apart. I suggest picking up a weapon and walk a beat or shut up and thank the good men and women who protect you while you complain about them. My final time viewing this blog. Good night to the Demetrius Montgomery sympathizer.

Anonymous said...

The News and Observer reporting that he was shot 4 times.

I'm glad cedar has posted this story. Maybe some good with come out of it. I'm also glad to see the cedar is not just Rodney bashing or waving pom poms for the CMPD guys in the field it makes what he is saying more creditable.

He may be wrong about the Courtland Smith case and I hope that the officer is cleared.

But if he was trigger happy or simply panicked as Cedar points out he needs to man up.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry he is dead but had he "Hit the broadside of a barn" or another car passing by, the public would be screaming why did the officer wait.

One officer fired and the other did not. Could it be he did not have a clear shot? He was screened by the other officer being in front of him? He could operate a vehicle and phone, he could operate a gun. I'll wait for the investigation but it looks like the officer did what he had to do.

I think Cedar Posts needs to seek medical treatment for that bleeding heart.

Anonymous said...


It seems obvious to me that this young man was trying to commit “suicide by cop.”

It’s unfortunate that the police officer involved will have to live with the fact that he had to kill someone in the line of duty. Only 3 % of officer’s will have to shoot their gun in the line of duty during their entire 20 – 30 year career. Police officers are trained to protect others and to protect themselves. The last thing that any police officer would want to do is kill someone!

Furthermore, if the story had been reversed, you wouldn’t post “…officer killed in the line of duty and leaves behind wife and child…”

Cedar Posts and Life Floating By said...

Anyone who reads about what happened to Courtland Smith will come to understand that playing cops and robbers is a dirty job.

What will be of issue is did the Archdale officer over react?

We operate with the understanding that LE has a right to shoot the suspect before he has a chance to fire a weapon.

In this case Cortland Smith was shot four times. That is just a little much if you ask me.

Clearly the officer panicked and clearly Smith was so drunk that he couldn't follow basic commands.

Remember for 17 minutes prior to being pulled over he's talking to the police, they are chatty and nice, very relaxed now all of a sudden they are screaming at him with guns drawn. Cortland didn't stand a chance. He was set up to make a wrong move.

I don't think Smith wanted to die. I think the David Crespi comparison is a reach. Crespi had a history of mental illness and suffered from depression for years.

As far as being a Demetrius Montgomery sympathizer.... STFU! I have no sympathy for crazed nut cases and carrer thugs who walks up and executes two human beings in cold blood.

The deaths of Sean Clark and Jeffrey Shelton much like that of John Burnette and Andy Nobles are tragic reminders that we are surrounded by some who wish to do us harm. You can't let your guard down ever.

That doesn't mean you have to shoot first and ask questions later.

Anonymous said...

Cedar he was not talking to the police he was talking to a dispatcher, big difference. The man said he had a gun, he was drunk and he said he was traveling at; what 95 mph or so. And your gonna say the officer just overreacted. Sir I cant imagine haveing the task of stopping a car knowing the occupant is armed and already made suicidal statements. Thank god we have men and women to do it. Until you strap on a gun, pin on the badge and do it, maybe you should write about football scores, the economy,etc. And your comment that even though they may have felt a clear and present danger didn't make it right to shoot him is absolutly the most retarded thing you could have said. I too agree with others you don't like police and you will do what ever it takes to bash them. P.S. This site sucks and so do you. Final post.

Anonymous said...

Four shots a little much? Lets talk physics 101 Cedar. If someone is under the influence and is involved in an accident...95% of the time who dies? The drunk driver? No, its the driver they hit. Alcohol is an inhibitor and can numb pain and allow gross motor skill to continue. Same with many other drugs PCP, LSD, etc. Often times someone under the influence of alcohol and/or narcotics can continue to function even though they have been hit a few times. It didnt say where the suspect was hit only that he was hit four times. So maybe the first three were nofatal took a fourth. Even seen a copperhead snake after its head has been cut off? It will still bite. This could be the case here. I, along with all other officers in NC are trained to NEUTRALIZE a threat...period. If it takes the whole magazine of ammo, then so be it. As an officer that has been involved in AND cleared of wrongdoing for firing more than once, its safe to say I can tell you to shut your mouth when you werent even there. You are a sympathizer Cedar and Ill bet you wouldnt even be this outspoken if it were joe blow nobody. Anyone can mess up...anyone. Classic example...the Craigs List killer. He was in Med school and killed folks in his spare time. This is also my last post. Cedar you should probaly go back and finsih your column for the Observer now.

Anonymous said...

cedar has a valid point 4 shots is means the cop emptied his weapon. panic defense typical cop reaction. they are all on a power trip.

Anonymous said...

Number One, let's not everyone rush to judgment here, let's wait until ALL THE FACTS COME OUT. ALL THE FACTS!

And Cedar, you simply cannot "communicate" with someone as drunk as this young man appeared to be. There is no "communicating".He was clearly drunk, which means his judgment was IMPAIRED.

I don't think the officers knew just how drunk he was and that he couldn't "hit the broad side of a barn".

I think a good question to start with would be why the heck did he have that gun in the car to begin with? Did he have a permit? Why did he feel the need to be armed?
Perplexing questions, for sure.

And how in the world did his friends allow him to get behind the wheel of a car so clearly impaired? What happened there, was there a failure to communicate there? Was he with friends, where was he prior to getting behind the wheel of that car?

His mental state is not known either. I mean prior to getting so completely inebriated.

All these questions and more must be answered before judgment is passed on ANYONE.

Please, just because four shots were fired does not mean someone was shooint in panic mode.

If the life of a law enforcement officer is clearly in danger, they must do what they are trained to do. And unless one has been in that exact position, it would be very, very difficult to know what it is like.

No one knows what happened at the scene yet, all the facts must come out FIRST before the editorializing should begin.

Anonymous said...

Cedar, I have to ask, how is the expose on Rodney coming along??

Are you still working on it?

Could we have an update, please?

Anonymous said...

To anon 3:24...

Weapons carried by officers in this state have anywhere from 12-15 rounds in them. so, firing four times would leave a lot of rounds still in the magazine. i say he was on point with NC BLET training standards as officers will fire no less than two shots at a time...aimed at center mass. we dont know the circumstances surrounding the shots fired but it seems cedar is already fit to be the judge and jury against the officer. and this is my last time oin the site. cedar you are a let down.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, we ask our children to call for help if they are drunk and unable to drive....

What we don't ask them to do is to wait until they are in a car speeding 100 miles an hour down an interstate with a gun in the car and out of their minds drunk and THEN call 911. To compare what this young man did to a simple "we teach our children to call for help" is disingenuous at best.

So to give him a kind of a pat on the back for "doing what he was supposed to do" does not wash here.

This, by all appearances, was a young man with some issues.

The police officer, who was doing his job, will have to live with this for the rest of his life.

And the parents of this young man will clearly be in pain for the rest of their lives.

No one is a winner or a villan in this tragedy.

Anonymous said...

what we can learn from this:
1. don't drink and drive
2. don't drink and carry firearms (or say you have them)
3. don't drive 100 mph drunk
4. don't refuse to pull over
5. stay in the car if ordered to
6. don't put an officer in a threatening position

pretty sure a few of those are felonies that would have carried a hefty sentence, maybe we should stop feeling sorry for him? paper says he was a leader... leader my @ss, we should be glad to not have this kind of negative influence affecting the students anymore.

'nuff said

Whistleblower said...

OK, first off, can we give Cedar a rest on the Rodney timeline? Is that all you people come here for? I mean, I hate Romo the same as the rest of us but I'm sure Cedar has more of a life than this blog and he'll finish it when it's ready.

Secondly, I can't believe some of you are such whiny babys that you'll stick our your tongue, lower your lip, and throw up the middle finger just because Cedar said a negative comment about law enforcement. From all the blogs he's posted so far, you can't say that he's not pro-police. I don't agree with his viewpoint, but that's his opinion, not mine, and there's not reason for me to pout about it.

Now, I'm not going to armchair quarterback the police on this, even though I think they did the right thing. But I know that you CANNOT, in any way, reason with someone who is grossly intoxicated. It is only a dead end street. This kid was an accident waiting to happen, and I have to agree with the person that questioned him being a 'leader.' Leader? Yeah, maybe he was destined to be one the future extremist liberal leaders of our country, but I'm glad that going 100+ down a highway, piss drunk, he didn't kill anyone else. He may have not technically been suicidal, but he sure did have a deathwish, even if he didn't realize it. Sorry his life was so prematurely taken, but alcohol doesn't mix with a lot of things...especially guns and cars. Who knows what went wrong here, but such is life.

Cedar, I disagree with you...but I'll be back. No one's perfect.

Anonymous said...

No, I think an honest question about when the Rodney timeline will be coming is perfectly reasonable...and yes, it is one of the reasons I come to this site, as I am sure it is with many people, DUH.

And Cedar is a big boy, he surely doesn't need you "blocking" for him.

"Future extremist liberal leaders"?
Puleeze, like 8 years of an "extremist right wingnut" is what got us to where we are today.....yep, 8 LONG years of an illiterate dry drunk...there you go.

el grande said...

It's early, all the facts aren't public, but I can envision far more scenarios where the officer was justified than where he was not - Was the officer justified or not? Too early to draw conclusions, but if Smith got back in the car and then emerged with a weapon, he left the officer little choice.

Anonymous said...

Wow for the longest time I was under the impression that Cedar was a Pro-Police Blog. Glad to see I can delete the CEDAR icon on my desk top now because it’s just another place to point fingers at the police and critique and Monday morning quarterback a profession very few understand. It’s another Charlotte Observer. I love the people who think race places no role in anything and that guys with gold teeth and pants around their ankles should be treated just like the normal guy walking down the street then has a change of heart when they get car jacked by the same guy or someone looking just like them. I also love the sign carrying protesters you scream to do away with the death penalty until their daughter gets raped and killed and now they think the suspect who did it should die. I love hypocrites and two faced people. They make me laugh. These are the same people who bash the police but run to the phone to dial 911 and beg for one to show up when things are not going their way. Don’t like the police don’t call them. As for this idiot in this article has anyone read the email he left for his parents that will “explain everything”. The fact is that this moron was too much of a punk to put the gun in his mouth and pull the trigger and be done with whatever problems he may or may not have had. Instead he had to involve a poorly trained dispatcher and a police officer who has to live with the fact that he killed this idiot. I feel for the officer. A lack of training by the “country bumpkin” dispatcher who kept asking “where you at” 400 times didn’t help the officers out much. It wasn’t a very good fact finding mission on her part. How about why do you have a gun? Why do you want to be stopped by the police if you are driving 95 mph and drunk? Why do you want to kill yourself? What was in the email you left your parents? Why did you email your parents? She asked nothing and that added to this mess. Maybe Cedar just likes to start controversy because it keeps the debate going and people come back to defend their positions. Or maybe Cedar is just another parking lot for idiots. Either way I’m deleting this Blog and have no desire to come back. For the officers out their on the street keep up the good job and be safe. And for the police haters the next time Willie tries to take your car or a drunken suicidal college student flies by you at 95 mph on the Interstate just let them go and don’t call 911. You never know the person on the other line may ask you “WHERE YOU AT”. Do you wish to delete Cedar from your desk top………YES!

Anonymous said...

Oh for the love of god, everyone calm down.......and grow up.

This attitude that people can't have differing opinions and be civil is a lot of what is wrong with this country now.

Although I do agree that a rush to judgment before all the facts are known is a tad biased!

But this is Cedar's Blog, so stay or leave, I'm sure it doesn't matter much to him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for following the story of Cortland Smith. I am the mother of a freshman at UNC and I am sickened that a drunk young man could be killed like this. I want to know all of the facts, but it does seem like the police officer over-reacted.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Cedar, letting you know, this is the post I will be linking, if I can get to it by tonight! Thanks for covering this important story.