Carolina Beach shooting suspect faces additional attempted murder charges

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Thomas Coulson appeared in New Hanover County District Court
Carolina Beach shooting suspect Thomas Coulson appears on the screen for his first appearance via video in district court. (Photo by Christina Haley.)

CAROLINA BEACH – Thomas Henry Coulson made his first court appearance today and faced additional attempted murder charges in connection with firing a shots at three officers in a Carolina Beach neighborhood Monday afternoon.

Coulson, 21, appeared before Judge Sandra Ray in New Hanover County District Court on Tuesday afternoon and faced a total of six felony charges — three counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Prosecutors say additional charges are pending the ongoing investigation.

The charges stem from the gunfire reported on Sea Ray Lane in Carolina Beach at about 3 p.m. Monday. Carolina Beach Police Chief Chris Spivey said a man armed with a “military or assault style” weapon opened fire at responding officers at the scene. The gunfire struck a Carolina Beach police officer’s duty equipment and uniform, but no officers or civilians were injured.

Coulson allegedly fled from a residence in the area and was later apprehended by authorities. A firearm was also recovered, according to the chief.

Following Coulson’s court appearance, District Attorney Ben David said that through the ongoing investigation, law enforcement discovered three homes had been hit by gunfire and authorities suspect Wilmington’s SABLE helicopter had also been “engaged” at the scene.

Additional charges relating to that and other offenses could be brought forward in the case and put before a grand jury for indictment, David said.

“Based on our entire review of the facts, we have determined substantially more charges should be filed,” David said. “Obviously this is a great concern anytime officers are in harms way and when there’s three that are facing gunfire like this, we’re going to treat this very seriously.”

David added he and prosecutors believe a very high bond was appropriate in the case based on the “dangerousness to the community.”

Coulson was arrested and booked at the New Hanover County jail on Monday under a $25 million secured bond. Ray ordered the bond remain during his first appearance Tuesday afternoon.

Thomas Henry Coulson
Thomas Henry Coulson

“I think we’re all united and very grateful that no one was seriously injured or hurt,” David said. “That’s regarding the three officers, the civilians and this defendant.”

Spivey, and other members of the Carolina Beach Police Department were also in attendance at Coulson’s the first court appearance Tuesday afternoon. Spivey thanked the support of the community, participating agencies and the district attorney’s office for their cooperation in the case.

Both David and Assistant District Attorney William Van Trigt are prosecuting the case for the state. Coulson will be appointed a public defender to represent him in the case.

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