Vassey looks for normalcy, Vidal’s family wants change after not guilty verdict
BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Southport police officer hopes to get his career and life back on track after a judge found him not guilty today of voluntary manslaughter.
The verdict ended the criminal case against Bryon Vassey for the 2014 death of Keith Vidal, 18.
“I’m thankful for God,” Vassey said. “I’m thankful for my family, and I’m thankful for the justice system.”
After 14 days in court and more than two years in limbo Vassey had few words at a Friday afternoon news conference in Wilmington hours after a judge found him not guilty. It’s the first time Vassey has spoken publicly outside of court since the Jan. 5, 2014, shooting that killed Vidal, who suffered from schizophrenia.
Vassey shot and killed Vidal after responding to the family’s call for help at their Boiling Spring Lakes home.
“If this guy didn’t show up to my house, my son would still be alive,” Vidal’s stepfather Mark Wilsey said.
Vassey testified he shot Vidal because the teen would not let go of a screwdriver as two other officers tried to calm him down. The argument for use of force apparently was enough for Judge Richard Brown, who oversaw the bench trial.
“We feel had there been a jury present, the verdict might have been different,” Vidal’s mother Mary Wilsey said after the verdict was announced.
Vassey’s attorneys, though, believe the trial never should have happened.
“The indictment in this case was inappropriate,” attorney J. Michael McGuinness said. “It was without merit, and it was frivolous.”
As Vassey focuses on getting back his career in law enforcement, Vidal’s family says they will focus on the need for police training in dealing with the mentally ill.
“My son died,” Mark Wilsey said. ‘You can’t bring him back, but I don’t want to see somebody else’s son or daughter die because some cop had a bad day and decided, you know, he didn’t have time for this.”
Vassey is currently suspended from the Southport Police Department. His attorneys say it is up to the department to decide if he comes back. WWAY reached out to the Southport Police Chief and is still waiting for comment on what the department plans to do.