911: N.C. Student Was Armed and Suicidal Before Cops Killed Him

(News and Observer / Harry Lynch)
Photo: Memorial service for Courtland Benjamin Smith Aug. 26, 2009, courtesy of Raleigh News and Observer.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (CBS/AP) New details have emerged in the case of a University of North Carolina student who was shot to death by a police officer after calling 911 for help.

Wednesday, Guilford Metro 911 released the desperate call that Courtland Benjamin Smith, 21, made shortly before he had a deadly confrontation with Archdale police.

911 Call to Guilford Metro - Aug. 23, 2009

In the tape, Courtland Smith, a college junior from Houston, claimed to be armed and suicidal. "I'm trying to kill myself on I-40," he said, and later, "I got a 9mm pistol with me."

Courtland Smith is clearly drunk in the tape. "I'm driving drunk, and I was trying to figure out if anyone could drive with me," he told the dispatcher in slurred speech.

Half-way through the call Courtland Smith seemed to allude to a suicide note. "Anything that everyone needed to know got emailed to my parents," he said.

Courtland Smith is clearly disturbed in the tape and refuses to stop his car despite repeated pleas from the dispatcher. "I'm not going to stop my car," Smith told her and said he was going 95 mph.

Photo: Courtland Benjamin Smith

But around 5 a.m. he did stop his car when Archdale police caught up with him on Interstate 85 south of Greensboro.

What exactly happened next remains unclear. A police report said officers shot Smith after a "confrontation ensued."

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that a police dash cam was running during the incident and may have recorded it. The Randolph County District Attorney's Office is treating the video as evidence, according to the paper.

The shocking call and tragic conclusion has left Courtland Smith's family grieving and bewildered.

"This is just not what my child would have done," his mother Susan Smith said. "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."

Susan Smith said her son was in good spirits just hours before he died. "His best friend was with him at 2 a.m. and said he was fine," she told The Raleigh News & Observer.

Courtland Smith graduated high school in 2007 from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, where he was a wrestler. He was a junior at North Carolina University and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

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.

Archdale Police Chief Darrell Gibbs says the officer who shot Smith has been placed on administrative leave with pay. The State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the shooting, which is standard procedure for shootings involving a law officer.

August 26, 2009 - Smart, Happy, Upbeat, Dead: N.C. Student Shot by Police