What began as a simple request for help with their mentally ill son ended in unbelievable tragedy for a North Carolina family Sunday afternoon.
Eighteen-year-old Keith Vidal was holding a screwdriver and threatening to fight his mother when the police were called for assistance in subduing the boy. Keith Vidal was in the grips of a schizophrenic episode; and, although he weighed all of 90 pounds, the family needed the help of the local police department because the young man was struggling with his mental illness.
Two police showed up shortly after the family’s call, and successfully restrained Vidal. The boy had been tased a few times in order for him to be subdued. A third officer arrived roughly 14 minutes after the initial officers arrived; and Mark Wilsey, the boy’s stepfather, said he heard the officer say, “We don’t have time for this.”
Seventy seconds later, Vidal was shot dead. Unit 104, the third vehicle to report to the scene, said over the radio that shots were fired by the officer in order to defend himself from the mentally ill teen.
Mark Wilsey said that he demanded to know why his son deserved to be shot, and the officer responded, “Well, I’m protecting my officers.”
He doesn’t buy the officer’s story, though. “He just murdered him flat out,” Mark Wilsey said. “He…shot this kid point-blank, with all intent to kill.”
Detective Byron Vassey has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into the shooting. He’s a nine-year veteran of the Southport Police, according to police chief Jerry Dove. Dove would not comment as to whether Vassey was the officer who had fired the shots that killed Vidal.
This is not the first time the Vidal family has lost a child. The family said they recently lost their daughter in a car accident; and, with their son, this is the second child they have to bury. The mother had to be treated for a breakdown at the scene of the shooting by emergency personnel.
Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David said that the investigation will turn up the truth, “wherever it may lead.”
“The public deserves to have a process put in place that will lead to the most just resolution,” David said.
Neighbors said although Vidal had a history of schizophrenia and depression, he frequently played with the local children and was never violent. According to the young man’s parents, however, he wasn’t willing to get help for his mental health issues, and this frequently led to problems at home. His mother, Mary Wilsey, had tried to get her mentally ill son the help he needed, but he refused.
Mary Wilsey is reeling over the loss of her son, and at a press conference to which the Wilseys said they had not been invited, she held a poster showing her son in happier times, holding his cell phone as he took a selfie.
The Wilseys said nothing during the press conference. They held posters featuring their boy, holding them up in the hopes that the police and other investigators would not forget their mentally ill son who needed help with his illness so very badly.
“Why?” asked Mary Wilsey. “Why did this child have to die?”
By Christina St-Jean