Schizophrenic 18-year-old Keith Vidal was having an episode on Sunday when his parents called the police for assistance. Instead, an officer shot and killed their son right in front of them.
During Sunday’s incident, Vidal had apparently picked up a small screwdriver — small enough that it couldn’t have caused serious harm, his family says, but enough that they sought law enforcement assistance. Three different police departments’ officers arrived at the scene. The first two were able to restrain Vidal and calm him down, according to Vidal’s father. But then a third entered, and that’s when he says things went sour.
He says the third officer tased Vidal, knocking the 90-pound teenager to the ground. The officer then allegedly stepped forward with a firearm and said, “we don’t have time for this,” before shooting the teen dead.
Southport Police Department, one of the three North Carolina agencies that responded to the call, has put one of its detectives on administrative leave in relation to the case, reports WECT. The department did not say whether the officer was the one who had fired the weapon. The other departments, Boiling Spring Lakes PD and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office, said that they have not put their responding officers on leave. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.
Sadly, families often treat police officers as assistants in home disputes or conflicts. But law enforcement officials have a long history of turning heated situations deadly. Protocol for police who take out their guns is to aim for the head or chest, and that’s exactly what the officer did in this case.
Too often, the mentally ill are on the other end of the barrel. Just last month, police fired 15–20 rounds at a schizophrenic man who they mistook for drunk, killing him. The month before that, in a similar incident to Vidal’s, a mentally ill man carrying a shovel was gunned down by police after his mother called them for help calming him down.
“This is what’s wrong with our mental health system,” Vidal’s mother, who was reportedly treated at the scene for an emotional breakdown, told reporters.
Two of the cops involved in the shooting have been cleared by an internal investigation. One officer, Southport Officer Bryon Vassey, remains on paid administrative leave.