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

February 4, 2015

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.


Yet another young black man killed by a cop in St.Louis

October 9, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Good morning:

More trouble in St.Louis last night.

An off-duty police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old black male in St.Louis last night. According to the police chief, the young man fired 3 shots at the officer during a chase. The officer returned fire squeezing off 17 shots.

A gun was recovered at the scene and a ballistics investigation confirmed that it had been fired three times.

The young man’s family is claiming he was not armed, raising the possibility that the officer might have used a throw-down weapon.*

The shooting is under investigation.

Hopefully, the victim’s hands were bagged at the scene and the ME will check for the presence of gunshot residue on them before washing the body prior to the autopsy.

The gun should be checked for prints.

*Many cops carry difficult-to-trace firearms acquired under questionable circumstances for the sole purpose of throwing them down on people they arrest or kill.

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Police officer shoots and kills schizophrenic 18-year-old

January 10, 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Good afternoon:

We have yet another tragic incident to consider in which a police officer shoots and kills a mentally ill person.

CNN reports:

A man calls 911 saying his family needs help. His wife is scared of their schizophrenic son, armed with a screwdriver. One, then two, then three law enforcement officers — all from different agencies — arrive. After the situation calms somewhat, according to the family, a tussle ensues.

What happens next?

In a case this week out of Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina, one officer responded by firing his gun, killing 18-year-old Keith Vidal, who was mentally ill.

The teen’s furious family soon take their case public, saying there’s no justification for Sunday’s shooting. Vidal, they say, weighed all of 100 pounds; he was mentally ill, yes, but he was a “good kid.”

The shooter is Byron Vassey, a detective with the Southport (NC), Police Department, which has placed him on administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting.

The legal test to apply is whether the officer reasonably believed that Keith Vidal was an immediate danger to himself or to others. Writing for the majority of the SCOTUS in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-397 (1989), Chief Justice Rehnquist explained the test as follows:

Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” `the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U. S. 696, 703 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S., at 22-27. Because “[t]he test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U. S. 520, 559 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U. S., at 8-9 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifie[s] a particular sort of . . . seizure”).

The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, at 20-22. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U. S. 797 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U. S. 79 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F. 2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See Scott v. United States, 436 U. S. 128, 137-139 (1978); see also Terry v. Ohio, supra, at 21 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See Scott v. United States, supra, at 138, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U. S. 218 (1973).

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.

Keith 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.'”

The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation is investigating this shooting.

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Another incomprehensible police killing of a civilian

December 9, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have another incomprehensible police killing of a civilian.

Robert Cameron Redus, 23, was shot to death early Friday morning by a campus police officer. Redus was a student at the University of the Incarnate Word, a Catholic University in San Antonio, TX.

CNN reports:

The campus police officer who shot Robert Cameron Redus said the 23-year-old student got out of his truck after a traffic stop, approached the officer and got into the struggle that claimed Redus’ life.

The officer has been identified as Cpl. Christopher Carter, said Margaret Garcia, a University of the Incarnate Word spokeswoman. He has been placed on administrative leave as part of standard procedure in these types of incidents, the university said in a prepared statement.

Police are claiming that Redus was stopped for speeding and driving erratically.

When the officer pursued Redus in his marked cruiser, the student pulled into an apartment complex.

A resident of the complex, 22-year-old Mohammad Haidarasl, told the San Antonio Express-News that Redus was his upstairs neighbor.
It was 2 a.m., and Haidarasl was on his apartment sofa.

He told the paper he heard a voice he believes to have been the officer’s saying, “Stop resisting, stop resisting.”

The newspaper quoted Haidrasl as saying he thought he heard a struggle and “then the cop said, ‘I’m going to shoot.’ ”

A male voice replied, ” ‘Oh, you’re gonna shoot me?’ like sarcastic almost,” Haidarasl said.

Less than a minute later, he said, he heard shots.

Students have reacted to the shooting with stunned disbelief. He was fun loving, popular, a Dean’s List student and the anchor on the school television news program.

The officer has been placed on administrative leave and the shooting is being investigated.

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