The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Police told that Courtland Smith had gun, was suicidal

Radio traffic shows he exited car

Archdale police communications show that officers knew Smith was potentially armed and suicidal when they pulled over his Toyota 4Runner early Sunday morning.

The stop led to what police say was an altercation with Smith that ended when one of the officers, Jeremy Paul Flinchum, 29, fatally shot him.

The Archdale Police Department released an almost 9-minute recording Thursday of communications between dispatchers and several police officers in response to a 911 call Smith made.

Smith, a junior biology major and president of the UNC chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, dialed 911 asking to be escorted or pulled over by police.

Smith’s gray 4Runner was reportedly weaving and speeding when two Archdale police officers located him.

A dispatcher, sometimes using police codes, advised officers that Smith likely was intoxicated and threatening suicide, details Smith told the 911 operator. The dispatcher alerted officers that Smith might be carrying a 9 mm pistol.

The tape also records the transmissions of the two officers who stopped Smith.

After a brief talk with the dispatcher, the officers yelled at Smith to return to his car. The shouting can also be heard in Smith’s 911 call.

The officers then reported that Smith was getting back in the car.

While no shots are heard on the communications tape, the 911 tape indicates that several minutes elapsed before the police next reported that Smith had been shot.

“Subject down. Subject down,” one officer reports. “Shots fired. Shots fired.”

The officers at the scene then directed the dispatcher to contact an ambulance. In the final minutes of the recording, emergency responders directed Smith to High Point Regional Hospital, where he was declared dead at 6:03 a.m.

While the tape does show that police were aware of what Smith said on the 911 call, it sheds no light on the interaction between the officers and Smith that would have led them to shoot him.

Archdale Police Chief Darrell Gibbs said in an interview Tuesday that officers are trained only to draw their weapons if they have reason to fear for their lives.

“That’s what it’s there for, to protect your life or to protect a third party,” Gibbs said. “There’s got to be something to make them do it.”

Details of the incident are still trickling out. The State Bureau of Investigation is continuing to examine evidence in the case. Randolph County Superior Court Judge Brad Long has sealed evidence, possibly including a dashboard video camera recording.

“Part of this situation is that we are completely in the dark as well,” said Chris Rice, a 1994 DKE alumnus and member of the executive board. He has spoken for the fraternity before.

Assistant University Editor Andrew Harrell contributed reporting to this story.

Contact the University Editor at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Women's Tennis Victory Paper