Wilmington (NC) – The case of a cop killing an unarmed man accused of stealing a PS3 added another twist this week. Right after the officer was indicted with murder, the grand jury came back and said there was a mistake and cleared the cop of all charges.
On Tuesday, it was reported that a grand jury in New Hanover county in Virgina had found 34-year-old corporal Christopher Long guilty of second degree murder after he opened fire on a raid of the home of college student Peyton Strickland, accused of stalking another student with a PS3 and mugging him. Strickland’s parents were outraged, because there was no evidence of him being armed or posing any threat to the officers on the scene.
However, the foreman of the grand jury, who checked the box on the paperwork that called for Long to be indicted, later announced that the jury had found Long not guilty and that he accidentally checked the wrong box. Murder charges for Long were immediately dropped.
Getting a murder charge against a cop who used force during an official raid is almost impossible, though because Long’s shooting was perceived as premature, the indictment was not immediately questioned. The foreman only came forward about the mistake after he heard second-hand that Long had been given a guilty verdict.
Long, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was fired after the shooting earlier this month. He claimed that he had heard gunfire from inside before he and other officers entered the door. The other officers don’t back up this claim. Long shot Strickland in the head, killing him, almost immediately after ramming down the door, it was reported.
Long’s attorney obviously had no problem with the mistake. “It was the kind of mistake you and I make in the world of forms. We checked the wrong boxes,” he said.
Strickland’s parents, on the other hand, were far less nonchalant. In a statement, they said, “Yesterday, our son’s murderer was going to have to answer for what he did. Today, we just don’t know what is going on in Wilmington. We are upset, confused and searching for answers.” They are seeking whether or not the error would be a reason to refile the charges.