North Carolina grand jury indicts officer for voluntary manslaughter for killing schizophrenic teen

Good news from North Carolina: A grand jury has indicted Officer Bryon Vassey for voluntary manslaughter. He is the officer who allegedly said, “We don’t have time for this,” before shooting and killing a schizophrenic teenager who had been subdued by two officers.

Think Progress has the story,

Officer Bryon Vassey was one of three officers from different North Carolina precincts to respond to a call by the family of 18-year-old Keith Vidal last month. The teen, who suffered from schizophrenia and weighed just 90 pounds, had apparently picked up a small screwdriver and wasn’t putting it down. But his parents say the two other officers already had the scene under control when Vassey walked in. They say the third officer simply tased Vidal, then took out a firearm and shot him dead, saying “we don’t have time for this.”

Records show Vassey was at the Vidal residence for just 70 seconds before calling in that shots had been fired, reports the North Carolina Star News.

The two officers who had subdued Vidal before Vasey arrived were cleared of wrongdoing by the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation.

I wrote about the incident here.

In the Boiling Spring Lakes case, there were three different officers at the scene. The first two didn’t open fire, but Vassey did. His lawyer, W. James Payne told CNN that Keith Vidal attempted to stab one of the officers multiple times with a screwdriver, but the officer was wearing a bulletproof vest, did not request assistance and was not injured.

Vidal’s stepfather, Mark Wilsey, who witnessed the shooting with Vidal’s mother, told CNN that the detective disrupted the situation,

“(He) walks in the room, walks around the corner, (and) says, ‘We don’t have time for this. Tase that kid now. Let’s get him out of here.'”

At a protest following the shooting, Keith’s mother warned,

“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,” Vidal’s mother told reporters. “Because your son will probably get shot and killed, just like mine did. Think twice about who you call for help.

Vassey has to post a $50,000 bond by today or surrender himself at the county jail.

I was really beginning to wonder if a grand jury would ever indict a cop. This indictment gives me some hope.

In other good news, a week before Christmas a jury in Missoula, MT rejected Markus Kaarma’s claim of self-defense, based on Montana’s stand-your-ground statute, and convicted him of deliberate homicide for the shotgun killing of a 17-year-old German foreign exchange student named Diren Dede. After an unsolved burglary, Kaarma installed some motion sensors in his garage and set a trap by leaving the door open with his wife’s purse in plain view. When Dede set off the sensor, Karma entered the garage and fired his pump shotgun four times, killing Dede.

Kaarma, whose case is similar to the Byron David Smith case in Minnesota (he also was convicted), will be sentenced on February 11th.

These three cases provide a basis for guarded optimism. I use the word ‘guarded’ because the victims in the three cases were white and I am not convinced the results would have been the same, if they had been black.

15 Responses to North Carolina grand jury indicts officer for voluntary manslaughter for killing schizophrenic teen

  1. girlp says:

    I want to see the cop convicted, however, it’s on the right track at this time.

  2. girlp says:


  3. Today is Trayvon Martin’s 20th birthday.

    • Malisha says:

      Wow, it’s been three years and we’ve seen things get worse instead of better. There was a young man full of promise who was not doing anything to anybody, slain by a resentful inadequate omega-male who was angry that his wife had walked out on him and he couldn’t pay his rent. How much we betray the “promise” that our pop culture tries to sell us.

      Rest in peace, Trayvon Martin. How much, with one scream, you expressed the horror every thinking American must feel at the vicious, carnivorous, racist system we have been unable to reform or ameliorate, all this time…

    • MDX says:

      Wow, so sad.
      I hope he went to this place:

  4. MDX says:

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    – Lord Acton

    Lord Acton points out the epic failure of a hierarchy wherein a uniform allows a person of mediocre or sub-mediocre social skills to be give power over those they swore to protect and serve.

    And those who a raised in an authoritarian culture give mystic power to the uniform, the collar, the title or the badge in that those who posses these items somehow are more honest, ethical and “better” than the rest of mankind.

    The Catholic Church has used this indoctrination to protect priests and nuns who have committed atrocities against children.

  5. Malisha says:

    Over the years, I have heard that we need [various kinds of authority figures] to be better “trained.” When judges deliberately hand abused kids over to the parents and guardians who very OBVIOUSLY have abused them, in spite of mountains of evidence showing that doing so will endanger the children, I have heard from advocates, activists, jurists, attorneys, professionals of all kinds that the judges need to be “trained.” When expert witnesses go to court and flat-out lie their eyes out, I have heard that they need to be “trained.” There’s a big industry for well-spoken fools to go around with grant money to make presentations to people, for WHAT?

    How do you “train” a copy to NOT SHOOT TO DEATH a person who is so obviously mentally ill that two other cops have him in restraint and are describing him as mentally ill? How do you “train” a cop not to conclude that he “has no time for this” and kill rather than commit an act of public protection? What exactly would that “training” be?

    You can’t “train” a killer to choose a rational non-lethal path, so long as that killer believes that killing will have no negative consequences TO HIM. It’s like reading a paragraph to a dog who has deposited a steaming heap on the carpet. You have to give information to the recipient of the “training” that the recipient is likely to interpret as “DON’T.”

    In the case of a dog, you reward the correct habits while discouraging the wrong ones. With a cop, is there a more sophisticated method that really works? If you don’t punish the wrongful killing of civilians you cannot affect the ordinary killer cop. And in particular, if you reward the wrongful killing of civilians (by a big show of support for the poor officer who is being unjustly criticized, and a warm protective unquestioning reception by his fellow officers AND BY MONEY FLOODING IN OVER THE INTERNET), you will get plenty more of it.

    When cops start getting decisively rejected by society, stripped of their authority and “respect,” prosecuted, imprisoned and otherwise discouraged from killing innocent civilians, “training” will work. Until then, — think about it.

    Let’s say you want to train cops not to kill subdued but agitated mentally ill civilians whose parents have called for help. Do you teach them a rule? What rule? “When a mentally ill person is being subdued by other officers and he no longer presents any threat to any person, do not shoot him dead.” Would that be a good rule? How about, “when a schizophrenic delusional individual is handcuffed and sedated and has no weapon, do not shoot him dead.” We would need that one as well, wouldn’t we?

    See how involved and expensive the “training” could become?

    • Two sides to a story says:

      So be it – LE agencies need to expend the time and the money to train cops properly and also weed out bad applicants from the beginning. They’ve courted the dumb and the violent for far too long and this spate of unnecessary killings is the result.

  6. Two sides to a story says:

    I’m glad that civilians who overstep boundaries will be rightfully convicted (who the hell thinks they can execute a thief by luring one in – good God!)

    But I don’t have high hopes for the jury in the cop’s case – likely they will excuse him somehow. I won’t hold my breath on that one, even though it was a heinous crime. Let’s hope that this case will turn the tide on convictions of negligent, killer cops.

    • Malisha says:

      It might be helpful in cases of negligent killer cops, but it won’t affect deliberate racist killer cops.

      • True, but I believe education and training regarding how to deal with the mentally ill by following an established set of procedures could be used to qualify a cop to handle mentally ill suspects. Kind of like a merit badge sort of thing with an increase in pay. When 911 calls come in, they are dispatched to respond and responders who arrive first have to wait for them to arrive before doing anything. The person with the requisite training then manages the scene.

        • gblock says:

          I think that the training is a good idea in that it can help people who WANT to do the right thing. But it needs to include plenty of exercises and drills, not just a presentation, so that handling situations appropriately becomes something natural to the police officers involved.

          For those cops who DON’T care about doing the right thing – because they are on power trips and/or enjoy using force – we need to find ways to weed them out as soon as possible and to have real prosecution and punishment if it becomes necessary.

          • Two sides to a story says:

            It’s said that 1 in 25 Americans is a sociopath, and likely that holds true to LEO positions too – or perhaps more, since sociopaths are attracted to positions of power. There has to be a way to weed these folks out. A college education also helps – educated officers are less likely to have violent reactions and LE agencies should not be discriminating against applicants with education and higher IQ.

    • so jaded says:

      Only when sad civilian kills a white person. George Zimmerman became a cult hero because of it.

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