A week ago today, 20-year old Kouren Thomas went to a house party in a nice neighborhood. Like most house parties, it was raucous and boisterous, but no more than that.
Across the street, neighbor Chad Copley was annoyed and afraid. Annoyed because the party was loud. Afraid because the people at the party were black people, and they were...partying.
After calling 911 full of fear that the loud kids across the street were hoodlums and thugs with guns, he decided to start shooting, and now Kouren Thomas is dead.
An unidentified man called 911 early on Sunday, saying he was on the “neighborhood watch” and heading outside to deal with “hoodlums” who had guns and were racing on his street.
“I am locked and loaded,” the caller said, according to a recording provided by the Raleigh Police Department. “I’m going outside to secure my neighborhood.”
Thomas' family has described Copley as "George Zimmerman 2.0." I think that's an accurate statement, given that Thomas was unarmed, had never been in trouble with the law, and was just leaving the party.
Now his family is grieving their loss, and his mother agreed to an interview with CBS about what happened. She explained, "My children never, ever lived in the projects. they always went to the best schools, and they had the best of everything."
Reporter Mark Strassman then asked her, "Nothing about Kouren was a hoodlum?"
WHAT. WAS. HE. THINKING?
That grieving mother had just told viewers everything they need to know: Her son was a middle-class kid who had gone to school in middle-class schools and was no different than any other kids in that neighborhood. Would he have asked a white mother that question?
Of course, it's unlikely that a white mother would be giving that interview, because fearful neighbors with shotguns do not pick off noisy white kids leaving parties in the wee hours of the morning.
Beyond the reporter's stupid question, this tragedy is one that highlights what is happening in this country. Because of the fear stoked up by the hard-right bigot running for president (and his surrogates), space has been created for the white supremacists in this country to stoke and nurture their fear to such a proportion that they now feel perfectly comfortable shooting their shotgun at unarmed people at the neighbor's house across the street.
I think we will discover that Chad Copley never saw any guns across the street before he started shooting. I think he was angry that black people were in his neighborhood having some fun and probably partying too loud -- something white kids do all the time without dying.
I think we will discover that Chad Copley is indeed George Zimmerman 2.0, and one who has been empowered by our current political climate of hate and fear.
Oh, and one other thing? There is no organized "neighborhood watch" in that community, according to police. Just one man, playing policeman to satisfy his thirst for "law and order."