Photo: Courtland Benjamin Smith
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (CBS/AP) Friends and family say he was a good student, smart, upbeat and happy. His mother called him "the perfect child." But now, Courtland Benjamin Smith is dead after a mysterious roadside confrontation with police.
Smith, a 21-year-old junior at the University of North Carolina, was shot just before 5 a.m. Sunday after Archdale, N.C., police officers pulled his car over on Interstate 85.
A police report states that Smith first telephoned police and "indicated that he was suicidal." That 911 call went to a dispatcher in Guilford County, who alerted the nearby Archdale police, who ultimately found Smith driving down the interstate and pulled his car over. Soon after, police shot Smith and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Once the vehicle came to a stop, a confrontation ensued," a police statement said.
The exact details of that confrontation aren't known. The chief assistant district attorney in Randolph County said he got a court order Monday to seal the 911 tape.
"There is a valid reason related to the investigation for not releasing it," prosecutor Andrew Gregson said.
Smith's mother, Susan, says her son was in good spirits just hours before police said he called 911 saying he was suicidal. "His best friend was with him at 2 a.m. and said he was fine," she told The Raleigh News & Observer.
Archdale Police Chief Darrell Gibbs says the officer who shot the student, Jeremy Paul Flinchum, 29, has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
The State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the shooting, which is standard procedure.
Susan Smith said the family wants to know what was said on the 911 call. "We're all asking what happened," she said. "This is just not what my child would have done. He was a good student; he was smart; he was handsome; he was the perfect child, and he was just the love of my life."
Courtland Smith graduated high school in 2007 from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, where he was a wrestler.
He also was a whitewater kayaker who had worked for the past two years as a counselor at a boys' camp called Mondamin, near Hendersonville. He had been a camper there in the past, said Frank Bell, the camp director.
"He was an extremely good kid, just top notch and one of the best young men we have ever had here," Bell said.
Smith was also a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, whose national executive director, David Eastlick Jr., said he talked with some of Smith's fraternity brothers Sunday. They said he displayed no signs of depression, Eastlick said.
"It's such a shame to have such a young life cut off," Eastlick said.