ABC News On Campus Reporter Chris Badders blogs:
Today the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill awoke to the tragic news of the death of Courtland Benjamin Smith, 21, a junior biology major and president of the university’s chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Jennifer Canada, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice, told the Associated Press the student from Houston, Texas was shot and killed Sunday by an Archdale, N.C. police officer during a confrontation on Interstate 85. A news release from Archdale police said police stopped Smith’s car after he had called officers, indicating he was suicidal. After the shooting Smith was brought to High Point Regional Hospital, where he died. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is examining the case.
Brothers at the DKE fraternity, who wished to remain anonymous, told ABC News On Campus that the fraternity was in the process of releasing a statement, but for now are still grieving their loss and won’t make any comments.
The news of Smith’s death comes a day before classes were set to begin for the new school year, and has the student community dumbfounded.
“It’s pretty shocking,” said Jennifer Brandt, a junior at UNC. “It reminds me of when Eve Carson and Jason Ray were killed and it’s obviously not a great way to start the year.”
Brandt, a member of the university’s chapter of the Phi Mu sorority, said some sororities she knew were close to the DKE house had cancelled scheduled recruitment events as a sign of respect for Smith.
Kathleen White, a sophomore, mentioned how disruptive such tragic news is to the entire university.
“To have a tragedy like this throws you off a bit,” White said. “It’s just a shock to have to start the year like this.”
Other students interviewed said it’s a humbling experience that puts perspective on their lives. Amy Whitaker and Ciarra Watkins, both sophomores, said that news of Smith’s death made them realize that incidents like this can happen to anyone, and that it makes them appreciate the chances in life they’ve been given.
“You don’t expect something like this at such an exciting time,” Watkins said.
The Chancellor’s office released a campus-wide statement this afternoon expressing sorrow over Smith’s death, saying “There is nothing worse than losing a young person” and announcing that the university was providing grief counselors for those who needed to speak to someone.