NEW DETAILS: State group defends officers' actions in teen shoot - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

NEW DETAILS: State group defends officers' actions in teen shooting death

Posted: Updated: Jan 11, 2014 06:21 PM
The family said they were not invited to the press conference, but showed up with signs and pictures any way. The family said they were not invited to the press conference, but showed up with signs and pictures any way.
The mother says the policeman who is responsible is a murderer and should be killed like her son. The mother says the policeman who is responsible is a murderer and should be killed like her son.
Emergency crews responded to President Drive for a officer involved shooting Sunday. Emergency crews responded to President Drive for a officer involved shooting Sunday.
Loved ones say they called police for help and officers shot Keith Vidal. Loved ones say they called police for help and officers shot Keith Vidal.

BOILING SPRING LAKES, NC (WECT) – For the first time since an officer shot and killed a teenager in Boiling Spring Lakes over the weekend, we are getting the perspective from the officers' point of view.  The information comes from the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, which is representing two of the officers.

The NCPBA says it has assigned local counsel for both Boiling Spring Lakes Officer John Thomas and Detective Bryon Vassey from the Southport Police Department after Sunday's incident. Vassey is currently on paid administrative leave with Southport.

On Sunday, Keith Vidal's parents called police for help after they say the 18-year-old was suffering from a schizophrenic episode and was carrying a screwdriver in his hand. At the scene, Vidal's stepfather Mark Wilsey said an officer shot and killed his son after a confrontation at their home on President Drive.

What happened

District Attorney Jon David has not named the three officers involved in the incident, because he said it is part of an ongoing State Bureau of Investigation query that he and other agencies requested.

David would not release any details about the investigation, but a Brunswick County event report she more light. According to the report, the first unit on scene was a Boiling Spring Lakes officer who arrived at 12:34 p.m. He was joined shortly after by two additional BSL officers and a Brunswick County Sheriff's Deputy.

The first unit on scene reported a confrontation in the hallway, but told Brunswick County Dispatchers several times that everything was OK.

Unit 104 from Southport arrived on the scene at 12:48:41, fourteen minutes after the first officer had already been on scene.

Seventy seconds later, Unit 104 radioed out that he had to fire shots at the subject in order to defend himself.

Law enforcement and the attorney for one of the officers have refused to comment on what took place to date, but the Police Benevolent Association described the activities Wednesday.

A release from the PBA says Officer Thomas was first to the scene. They say Vidal failed to comply with repeated requests to drop his weapon, so officers tased him. The PBA says after being tased, Vidal "made physical contact with Officer Thomas using the hand holding the deadly weapon."

The PBA release said the officers realized there was an immediate threat on Officer Thomas' life, so Detective Vassey "employed authorized law enforcement action to stop the continuing threat of deadly harm to Officer Thomas and others."

The PBA calls this investigation a routine protocol.

What the family is saying

The event report mirrors what family members told the media.

Wilsey said his family called the police to help with his son who has schizophrenia and had a small screwdriver in his hand. Officers used a Taser on Vidal and then shot him, according to Wilsey.

Wilsey said officers had his son down on the ground after the teen was tased a few times and an officer said, "we don't have time for this." That's when Wilsey says the officer shot in between the officers holding the teen down, killing his son.

"There was no reason to shoot this kid," Wilsey said. "They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son."

The family said police shot Vidal because he had the screwdriver in his hand. They said it was a tiny screwdriver, though, that would not have hurt anyone. 

Both parents said they had to watch their son die in front of them. They said Vidal had just turned 18 years old and only weighed about 90 pounds.

Vidal's mother, also at the scene, said she could not understand what happened.

"Where is the justice, why did they shoot my son?," she asked. "This is what's wrong with our mental health system."

According to David, investigators responded to the scene immediately and began working as a team to start gathering evidence. The district attorney said investigations area a search for the truth, and he's confident that everyone involved will find the truth.

The family said they recently lost their daughter in a car accident and this is the second child they will have to bury.

Neighbors said Vidal played with their children and he never was violent.  They said he had a history of depression and schizophrenia, but he was never harmful to others.

Vidal's mother said she had tried multiple times to get Vidal help for his mental illness. Emergency services treated her for a breakdown at the scene.

Vidal was a student at South Brunswick High School. According to a spokesperson for the school, a crisis team was at the high school Monday to offer support for students and staff.

The District Attorney's Office held a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the incident. The family said they were not invited to the press conference, but showed up anyway with signs, pictures and posters hoping for justice for their lost loved one.

Southport

According to Southport Police Chief Jerry Dove, Detective Vassey was placed on leave in connection to his involvement in the shooting, though Dove would not confirm if Vassey was the one who pulled the trigger.

Vassey has been employed at the Southport Police Department since December 2004. This is the first time he's been placed on administrative leave.

Brunswick County

According to Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram, an internal investigation of the deputy who was assisting during the incident shows she did not discharge her firearm.

Ingram said the investigation determined Deputy Samantha Lewis "did not discharge her firearm during the incident, but did engage her Taser."

"Our Office of Professional Standards determined her actions to be appropriate, within policy and was not in violation of any NC laws," said Ingram. "Details of the circumstances that lead Dep. Lewis to utilize her taser will be forthcoming as the investigation progresses."

Lewis was cleared to return to active duty.

"I would like the family of Keith Vidal to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers," said Ingram. "I am a parent, as are many of the men and women who serve at the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office, and I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child under any circumstances."

Boiling Spring Lakes

The Boiling Spring Lakes Police Chief has cleared his officers of any wrong doing at the scene. Chief Brad Shirley says an internal review shows his officers did not break any laws. They responded to help Vidal's family, during what they called a schizophrenic episode.

Vidal's family has hired a team of lawyers. They're calling the investigation a "cover-up" by law enforcement and the District Attorney's Office.

Attorney James Payne represents the alleged shooter in this investigation. Payne would not go into detail about what happened or even name his client, but maintains that his client didn't do anything wrong.

"We have full faith and confidence in all agencies involved," said James Payne. "To say it's a cover up is saying that these men and women lack integrity and that's not true."

Payne invited WECT.com to his office on Tuesday, promising a "different perspective" on what happened that day. However, he refused to go into specifics about the case.

"Law enforcement officers are called to many scenes and many things can happen in a split second that are totally unexpected," said Payne. "So, one should not be hung up on a certain period of time to draw conclusions from that."

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

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