Eighteen-year-old Keith Vidal of Boiling Springs Lakes, N.C., was shot and killed by police on the afternoon of January 5, despite having already been restrained and tased following a schizophrenic episode.
The family of the teen, who weighed just 90 lbs, had phoned the authorities to ask for help in controlling their son, who was wielding a small screwdriver and threatening to fight his mother.
According to a report released by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, three Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department officers arrived at the scene shortly after 12:30pm, and were quickly joined by a Brunswick County Sheriff’s Deputy.
Even though they radioed in to Brunswick County Dispatchers that the situation was under control following a confrontation inside the home, a Southport Police Department cruiser arrived to assist some 14 minutes after the first car came on the scene.
Just seventy seconds later, Vidal was shot and killed by the Southport officer.
As Vidal’s stepfather, Mark Wilsey, explains it, the incident was practically over and his stepson was being restrained by two officers when the Southport cop arrived.
No Reason to Shoot This Teen
“Then all of a sudden, this Southport cop came, walked in the house [and said]: ‘I don’t have time for this. Tase him. Let’s get him out of here,” Wilsey recalled.
Seconds later Vidal was tased by another officer.
“He hit the ground [and] this guy shot him,” Wilsey told NBC News, referring to the Southport officer.
Wilsey said he asked the cop why he shot his stepson. “Well, I’m protecting my officers,” he responded, according to Wilsey.
“There was no reason to shoot this kid,” Wilsey told WECT. “They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son.”
The Southport Police Department has since placed Detective Byron Vassey, a nine-year veteran, on paid leave, but has not actually said that he was the officer who killed Vidal. So far, no other action against the police has been taken.
Many Troubling Aspects to This Story
The police apparently shot Vidal because he had the screwdriver in his hand. But they had already tased him, he weighed 90 lbs, and the screwdriver was just about 6 inches long. How much damage could he have done?
Vidal’s neighbors said the teen played with their children and he never was violent. According to them, he had a history of depression and schizophrenia, but he was never harmful to others.
It’s clear that we need to train people to handle those who are mentally ill and are prone to violent episodes. Schizophrenia is a tremendously difficult disorder to have, and most people do not know how to treat it. Many mentally ill people are regarded as criminals or with utter disdain.
A History of Police Brutality
This is hardly the first instance of unnecessary police violence.
Last October, 13-year-old Andy Lopez Cruz was walking on a street near his house in Santa Rosa, Calif., around 3:00pm when Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who was in the passenger seat of a patrol car, and another unnamed deputy, who was driving, saw the eighth grader, who was carrying a toy gun. A few minutes later, Cruz was dead, after Gelhaus fired at him.
In the spring of 2012, a 21-year-old Brazilian man, Roberto Laudisio Curti, was killed by police in Sydney, Australia. According to reports, Laudisio was shot at least three times by police taser guns before collapsing on the street. He was unable to be revived and died at the scene.
In 2011 two officers in Orange County, Calif., faced felony charges in the death of Kelly Thomas. Thomas, 37, was brutally beaten by six Fullerton Police officers on July 5, and died several days later from his severe injuries. Prosecutors charged one police officer with murder and another with manslaughter in the killing of this defenseless, mentally ill homeless man who was pummeled, shocked with a taser and beaten with the butt of a stun gun.
I don’t want to paint all cops as bad people, since that’s not true. But in the case of Keith Vidal, justice must be done. If you believe that what happened to Vidal was wrong, please sign and share our petition, demanding the firing of the officers who killed this innocent teen in cold blood.
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