A North Carolina detective is on paid administrative leave in connection with the fatal shooting of a mentally ill teen, and prosecutors promised this week to get to the bottom of what happened Sunday in a family’s Boiling Springs Lakes home.
According to WECT-TV, the family of 18-year-old Keith Vidal called the police to help when their schizophrenic son who was holding a screwdriver and having an episode.
“He just wants to fight his mother. He’s not right,” Mark Wisley, the boy’s stepfather, told 911 dispatch in what seemed like a calm voice.
Listen to the 911 call:
A Boiling Spring Lakes officer arrived on the scene just after 12:30 p.m. Jan. 4, followed by a second officer and a county sheriff deputy. The officers on this team informed dispatchers that things were under control, despite having an initial confrontation.
About 15 minutes later, a unit from Southport Police Department arrived, and less than two minutes later, shots were fired. Dispatch was told the shots were in self defense, WECT reported.
But that’s not how Wilsey saw it. Here’s more of his perspective from WECT:
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.”
NBC News reported Wilsey recalled that an officer said he was “protecting my officers.'”
“He reached right up, shot this kid point-blank, with all intent to kill,” Wilsey said, according to NBC. “He just murdered him flat out.”
Watch WECT-TV’s report:
On Monday, Southport police chief announced Detective Byron Vassey, a 10-year veteran on the force, was on paid administrative leave, in connection with the shooting. WECT reported that the police chief would not confirm if Vassey fired the shots though.
Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David said Monday he and the State Bureau of Investigation “will go wherever the truth leads in this case.”
The distraught family told local media the teen did not have a history of violence. They didn’t necessarily think he would do harm to anyone or himself with the screwdriver, but, as a precaution, they called police.
“It’s always just been, ‘Leave me alone,'” Wisley told the Star News Online, noting that they’ve called the police to talk with Vidal before. “That’s all you have to do is talk to Keith, that’s the type of person he is, and calm him down and usually that will solve the problem.”
According to the newspaper, the family said the first batch of officers seemed to be making progress talking with their son.
Then, “an officer from another town entered the residence and instructed the officers to stop talking and tase Vidal,” Anthony Owens, a family friend, said in a statement to police, according to the Star Online. “As Vidal tried to flee into the bathroom adjacent to where he was standing, the two officers simultaneously shot him with their Tasers.”
“There were two cops on top of [Vidal]. Two cops and me with a 90-pound kid,” Wilsey told the newspaper. “And then he shot from behind me. [He] could have hit the officer.”
Although the investigation likely has a long way to go — as Davis put it, “the wheels of justice sometimes grind slowly” — defense attorney James Payne, representing the officer who allegedly shot the teen, told WWAY-TV he believes “everybody will conclude that the officers acted appropriately.”
Vidal’s mother, Mary Wilsey, told WECT she had tried to get proper mental health care for her son.
“Where is the justice? Why did they shoot my son?” she said, according to the news station. “This is what’s wrong with our mental health system.”