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University of North Carolina Wrightsville Beach settles wrongful death suit

The University of North Carolina Wrightsville Beach (UNCW) will pay $150,000 to the family of an 18-year-old man who died after police mistakenly shot him through his house's front door after they arrived to serve an arrest warrant. The North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees compensation in all law enforcement-related claims in the state, said that UNCW will contribute an additional $100,000 to a new fund designed to better train and accredit police officers employed by the university.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim's family, the Cape Fear Community College student was shot by officers with the county's Emergency Response Team in 2006. UNCW campus police requested assistance from the county force because they believed the victim may have been armed. The officer who fired the fatal shot said he mistook the sound of a police battering ram striking the door for the sound of gunfire, prompting him to discharge his weapon. The officers say they went to the home in order to arrest the victim for an incident in which he and several other individuals allegedly attacked a UNCW student and stole two video games. The lawsuit contends that those accusations were baseless and asserts that the officers were acting on unreliable information.

The victim's father issued a statement expressing his hopes that the lawsuit will ensure that other families will not have to endure such a senseless loss due to the UNCW police department's lack of proper training, and inadequate policies and procedures. UNCW made its own statement, stressing its commitment to safe and professional campus law enforcement.

The family reached a settlement in Cape Fear Community College in 2008, securing approximately $2.45 million for the creation of a scholarship fund in the victim's name.

Source: StarNewsOnline, "Family of slain student relieved by settlement," Pressley Baird, March 22, 2013

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