‘Somebody’ Asks: Who Shot Courtney Copeland?

Shapearl Wells’ son Courtney Copeland was only 22 when he died of a gunshot wound right outside of a Chicago police station. Officers told Shapearl that Courtney had been shot inside his vehicle, and that he had driven himself to the police department to ask for help before collapsing onto the pavement. But Shapearl’s grief turned to suspicion when they started to question her about her son’s car. He had been driving his pride and joy, a BMW he called “Bebe” that he had earned by being a top salesman at his job. Police asked Shapearl who the “real owner” of the car was. She started to wonder if her son’s death was the result of a traffic stop gone wrong. And the more questions she asked, the more reason she had to wonder. On this episode of Somebody, Shapearl recalls the early weeks after his death when more and more startling information was coming to light.

Shapearl requested an interview with the sergeant of the police station where Courtney died, and while he seemed contrite, he was still somewhat uncooperative, refusing to tell her the names of the officers who had attended her son in the parking lot. An officer told Shapearl that there was some video of the incident they had viewed, but when Shapearl asked to watch it, the sergeant told her the cameras didn’t work. That didn’t add up, but worse was yet to come; a rumor was going around that when Courtney arrived at the hospital, he had been “combative” and was handcuffed to the stretcher – details the sergeant had left out. “The police said he collapsed at the station, how did he become combative at the hospital?” Shapearl asks. “Why would they handcuff somebody who was dying?” What’s more, when she spoke to the attending ER nurse, she says they weren’t informed that a combative patient was coming to the hospital – standard procedure, because they have to bring in extra security in those situations. Where was this rumor coming from? 

They laid Courtney to rest in a tuxedo, with “standing room only” at the service because Courtney was “everyone’s best friend.” Then Shapearl got Courtney’s car out of impound and her lawyers went through it, taking hundreds of pictures and bagging items for evidence. “I finally felt like someone was taking my son’s case seriously,” Shapearl says. They found a sticky note on the driver’s side door that said, “Marketing Director” – the job Courtney was working towards. But what they found – or rather, didn’t find – was shocking. “There was no blood in the car,” she remembers. “But the police had said Courtney was shot inside the vehicle.” What happened to Courtney Copeland? Listen to this episode to find out more about who he was in life, and how his mother hopes to unravel the mystery of his death, on Somebody.

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