Autopsy Offers New Details on Death of Courtland Smith

An autopsy report on Courtland Smith lists the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds and sheds new light on the events that occurred on the August morning that Smith was shot by an Archdale police officer. Smith was president of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

According to the N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s report, issued Oct. 15, Smith was shot four times in the early hours of Aug. 23. The report states that Smith suffered a gunshot wound to his left forearm and upper abdomen, a gunshot wound to his lower abdomen and a gunshot wound to his left thigh.

Smith, the report states, also suffered a partially penetrating gunshot wound to the upper back.

The Houston native was pronounced dead later that morning at High Point Regional Hospital.

Smith’s vehicle was stopped on Interstate 85 at 4:54 a.m. after the 21-year-old UNC junior called 911 for assistance, indicating that he was suicidal, had been drinking and had a gun. According to a statement from the Archdale Police Department, a confrontation ensued after the vehicle came to a stop.

An accompanying investigative report by the medical examiner says Smith exited his vehicle and “made a suggestive move toward his pocket which the police interpreted as a move to get a gun.”

The report states that officers fired on Smith and hit him in the abdominal/chest area. The gunshot wounds were all from a .357 caliber handgun, according to the report.

Both the autopsy and investigative reports of the medical examiner also state that Smith had been suicidal. The original investigative report stated that Smith had commented to friends on the day of his death about possible suicidal ideas. But on Oct. 21 the investigative report was amended to say, “There is no evidence that prior to this [Smith’s claim that he had a gun in the car] he had expressed suicidal thoughts or intent.”

Though the investigative report states the police thought Smith was reaching for a gun, there is no mention of a gun being found. The autopsy states that the personal effects with the body consisted of $20.76 found in his shorts pocket.

The original investigative report also listed alcohol and depression as contributing conditions to the probable cause of death. In the Oct. 21 amended report, depression was deleted but alcohol retained (along with gunshot wounds) under the heading “probable cause of death.” The autopsy report states that Smith was intoxicated at the time of his death, with a blood alcohol content of 0.22 percent, almost three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Earlier this month, a Superior Court judge in Randolph County ruled against the release of the dashboard camera video from inside the police car. Judge Vance Bradford Long cited that the release could hinder an ongoing criminal investigation and jeopardize both the right of the state to prosecute a potential defendant and the right of that defendant to receive a fair trial.

The State Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate the incident and hold the videotape.

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