BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The attorney representing a Southport Police officer who reportedly shot and killed a schizophrenic teen Sunday now says his client fired to protect another officer. But that story conflicts with what the officer himself said minutes after the shooting.
In an interview with CNN that aired this evening, attorney James Payne says Det. Bryon Vassey shot Keith Vidal, 18, because Vidal was not subdued even after being tased and restrained by Boiling Spring Lakes Ofc. John Thomas and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Dep. Samantha Lewis. Instead, Payne says Vidal was using a screwdriver he was holding to try to stab one of the officers.
“In the abdomen area,” Payne told CNN reporter David Mattingly on Thursday’s edition of “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “Apparently he had not (caused any injury). Again, apparently the officer had a bulletproof vest.”
But that’s not what Vassey himself reported Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t know if you’ve been advised or not, but shots fired,” Vassey radioed to a dispatcher moments after the shooting. “I’ve had to defend myself against the subject.”
Payne told WWAY Thursday evening via telephone that there are three things to remember when police immediately call dispatch following an incident.
First, Payne explained that the purpose of the call was to get dispatch alerted that somebody was down and needed emergency assistance.
Second, he said the officer is having to report what occurred while adrenaline is extremely high.
Finally, police officers look at each other as brother and sister and that an attack against one is an attack against themselves.
Payne admitted in the CNN interview that the other officer did not yell for help or ask for anyone to shoot Vidal. Instead, Vassey apparently made the decision to shoot on his own.
“The stabbing motion traveled to an exposed part of the down officer,” Payne said. “(Vidal) was not being subdued.”
Payne said Vassey’s decision was the right one.
Vidal’s family, who has said Vassey murdered the 90-pound teen, referred us to an attorney for comment today, but we did not hear back.
Records show Vassey was the last officer to respond to Vidal’s family’s home in Boiling Spring Lakes Sunday afternoon and that 70 seconds after the detective arrived, Vidal had been shot.
Vassey is on administrative leave as the SBI investigates what happened. Thomas and Lewis have been cleared of any wrong doing through internal reviews by their respective agencies and have returned to duty.