Parents say their schizophrenic son was killed in ‘cold blood’ by police who were called to help

Keith Vidal (Source: WECT)
Outside the scene of Keith Vidal's killing.  (Source: Triad NC News)
Outside the scene of Keith Vidal’s killing. (Source: Triad NC News)

BOILING SPRING LAKES, NC — A devastated family is claiming that when they asked police for help in calming down their frantic schizophrenic son, police officers came and killed him “in cold blood.”  When the 90-lb boy would not drop a screwdriver, officers tased him repeatedly and shot him to death.

Keith Vidal  (Source: WECT)
Keith Vidal (Source: WECT)

The incident occurred on the afternoon of Sunday, January 5th, when Mark Wilsey and his wife called police for assistance with their son, Keith Vidal, who was suffering from a “schizophrenic incident” and was disoriented.  His parents wanted to take him to the hospital, but could not until Vidal relinquished control of a screwdriver that he liked to hold.

“He did not threaten anybody,” his mother explained.  “He just wanted his screwdriver.”

His father calmly placed a phone call to police and asked for “an officer” to help calm him down, take away the screwdriver, and escort him to a hospital for treatment.

Vidal’s parents said they had been aware of his mental illness for a few years and tried made several unsuccessful attempts to get him treated.  They had resorted to calling police in previous schizophrenic incidents in which he would not calm down.  At eighteen years old, he weighed only 90 pounds.

Two officers from the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department arrived, and began talking with the boy.  His mother said that she was familiar with at least one of these officers, and they acted very professionally, as they had in past in assisting her son.  The BSL officers talked with Vidal for about 14 minutes.

It was then an officer from the nearby Southport Police Department arrived to “assist.” Records show that it took only 70 seconds from the time of his arrival until shots were fired.  As WECT-6 News reported:

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.

The situation escalated quickly from there.  Without knowing the situation, the Southport officer demanded Vidal drop the screwdriver or be tased.  Vidal retreated, and was tased and shot within seconds.

“We called for help, and they killed our son. No reason for it, deadly force. There was no reason. They had Tasers on them, and they didn’t have to even tase him, they could have just talked to him, talked to him another 10 minutes,” Wilsey told Triad NC News.

Both parents watched as their son died before their eyes.  “Where is the justice, why did they shoot my son?,” his mother asked, breaking down at the scene.  “They shot my kid like he was a dead dog on the road!”

“They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son.”

WECT News engaged the family as they held protest signs at a press conference.  They said they were not invited to attend, but showed up anyway.  “We were not invited here, we were not told about this,” explained his mother.

The family explained the progression of events.  Boiling Spring Lakes officers were first on the scene, attempting to talk with Vidal, but he showed little interest in talking.  EMS arrived after several minutes, but remained out of the way to avoid scaring Vidal.  A female sheriff’s deputy arrived next, and “she was great with him,” said Mark Wilsey.

“Everything was fine.  There was no escalation.  Nobody threatened anybody.  Keith didn’t show a screwdriver, or threaten anybody with a screwdriver.  Then Robocop walks in,” said Wilsey, referring to the Southport police officer who arrived last.  He said that it took only seconds for him to attack his son.

“When Keith heard they were going to taser him, he ran for the bathroom.”  His father continued.  “He tried to shut the door and get away from these guys.”

At this point the family agrees that the Southport officer said, “We don’t have time for this!”

The family says that police used tasers, subduing Keith on the floor with the help of his father.  During the scuffle, the Southport officer unexpectedly drew his pistol and fired — between the men who were holding him down.

Wilsey explained to the camera:  “There was no reason for deadly force.  There was two cops on top of my son.  I was there to assist the cops.  This guy, from behind me, shot this young little boy for no reason.  There was no danger.”  He added, “[The officer] reached right up and shot this kid point blank, with all intent to kill him.  He just murdered him, flat out.”  He said that he thought the officer was going to shoot him as well.  Wilsey added, “He had no remorse.”

Family members protest during a press conference.  (Source: WECT)
Family members protest during a press conference. (Source: WECT)

“The only person who acted insane, was the cop who shot him,” remarked another family member.  They said that the shooting took place in a 3-foot hallway with four people present, putting everyone at risk, including officers.

“These two officers were talking to my son, [then] GI Joe comes in and shot him,” Wilsey continued.  “No negotiation, no nothing. He did not know what was going on.  From the time he walked in my front door till he shot this kid was 5 seconds.  That’s how fast this happened.  If it was 10 seconds, I’d be amazed.”

“The coverup began real fast because they got all those cops out of there in a matter of 15 seconds,” said Vidal’s mother.  The family objected to their exclusion from the press conference and denial from being with Keith — before and after his death.  “I still have not seen my son,” his mother added, as her hands visibly shook.

They stood outside the district attorney’s office, wondering why they were being shut out; their protests ignored.

Keith’s older brother gave his take on the situation: “How does an officer decide that deadly force is needed within 10 seconds of being in there, while two other officers were in there controlling the situation for 15 minutes?  This guy walks in, ten seconds later, [says] ‘Oh well this guy needs to be shot!  We ain’t got time for this!’  Boom!  Now my brother is in a damn bag over in the coroner’s office.”

His brother also remarked how Keith couldn’t physically drop the screwdriver while two separate tasers were simultaneously zapping his body.  “It’s impossible! Your hands stay clenched!”

His mother speculated to the camera about why the officer didn’t have time to spend with Keith before blasting hime.  “Maybe he had an important lunch date,” she said dryly.  “If he doesn’t have time to deal with it, well then he doesn’t need to be on our police department.”

His mother said that there was only one “bad cop” who showed up at her home; the one who shot her son.  “The others were great,” she said, as she held a sign that read, “Do not let one bad cop disgrace the entire police department.”

“They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son,” Mark Wilsey told WECT-6 News.  “We want to press charges against Robocop.  He should be put in jail.”

The incident has been placed under the investigation of North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation.  Detective Byron Vassey was placed on leave in connection to his involvement in the shooting.  It is not clear if he was the shooter, due to lack of cooperation from officials.  Other names have not been released.

“My word that I want to get out, to every family who has a mentally ill patient — do not call the police department for help,” said the mother, “because your son probably will get shot and killed, just like mine did.  Think twice about who you call for help.”


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So far, we know that Detective Byron Vassey of the Southport Police Department has been suspended, but we do know know absolutely that he was the shooter.


Southport Police Department, North Carolina
Phone:  (910) 457-7917
Facebook: CityOfSouthportNC


Boiling Spring Lakes City Hall
Mayor Craig Caster910-845-2101
City Hall Main Phone:  910-845-2614

Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department
Police Chief Bradford Shirley:  910-363-0011
Lieutenant Rick Spencer: 910-363-0011

Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office
Phone:  910-253-2777
Facebook:  BCSO

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