It's a case that's captured national attention. A neighborhood watch captain who recently shot and killed an unarmed teen in Florida is claiming he did it out of self-defense, but many feel he went too far. We were curious what the law would be in our state if a similar situation happened.
Our self-defense laws are more limited than Florida's, according to Pitt County District Attorney Clark Everett. Even if the laws were the same, locals involved in community watch groups say the whole situation could have possibly been prevented.
Henry Cayton lives in Greenville and is involved in community watch. He explains what he'd do if he saw someone suspicious in his neighborhood:
"I'd call 9-1-1." said Cayton.
That's what Pitt County Sheriff's Lieutenant Kip Gaskins says he teaches the groups to do.
"We don't tell anybody to try to be law enforcement. They're the eyes and ears. They can ride around their neighborhoods and look for suspicious activity, but we do not recommend that they confront anyone." said Gaskins.
28-year-old neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman did go after someone as he called 911about a suspicious person in his gated Florida apartment community last month, and is now coming under fire.
"Are you following him?" asked the 911 dispatcher when Zimmerman called.
"Yeah'" said Zimmerman.
"Okay. We don't need you to do that," said the dispatcher.
After a confrontation, Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was returning home after buying candy. Zimmerman claims he shot Martin in self defense after martin attacked him and has yet to be arrested, thanks in part to a 2005 Florida law that says a person can use deadly force no matter where they are, if they have reasonable fear that their attacker could seriously harm them or someone else.
In North Carolina, we have what's called the "Castle Doctrine", where a person can use deadly force against an attacker in just three places: their home, car, or workplace.
"You don't have to worry about what's in that person's mind. You can presume that they're there to use deadly force against you and if you defend yourself and use deadly force, you can't be charged or prosecuted for that deadly force." said Pitt County District Attorney Clark Everett.
Everett says if the same situation in Florida happened here, the case would likely end up in court where a jury would decide if Zimmerman acted out of self-defense, and if he used excessive force to do so.
Civil rights leaders continue to pressure authorities to make an arrest in this case.
Police said Zimmerman is white, while his family says he's hispanic.
Florida state attorney Norm Wolfinger announced that the case will go before a grand jury.