VIDAL'S FATHER: 'When you lose a child, the pain never ends'

VIDAL'S FATHER: 'When you lose a child, the pain never ends'
Officer takes the stand again for third day of Vassey bench trial (Source: Brunswick County Sheriff's Office)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Day three of the trial involving former Southport police sergeant Bryon Vassey consisted of compelling testimony from Officer John Thomas with Boiling Spring Lakes.

Thomas was the first to respond to Keith Vidal's house on the day of the shooting.

Prosecutors asked Thomas if Vassey made the right move by firing off his gun. Thomas said Vassey did not take appropriate action because he was not at the house long enough to assess the situation.

The defense spent much of Thursday morning questioning Thomas about the screwdriver Vidal had in his hand when he arrived to the home in Boiling Spring Lakes.

Thomas told Vassey's defense attorney James Payne he didn't actually see the screwdriver, but he did see a shiny metal point and thought it looked like a Craftsman screwdriver.

Thomas described Vidal as having a "hateful" look on his face and admitted to being somewhat frightened of Vidal. Thomas said Vidal had a monotone voice and was saying "fight me."

The defense said the screwdriver was a weapon.

Transcripts from a 2014 interview with Thomas and the SBI indicate Thomas told investigators he believed Vidal "wanted to die" on the day of the shooting.

Audio recordings from the body mic Thomas was wearing on the day of the shooting was played for the third time in court Thursday.

Recordings captured the moments before and after the shot was fired. There were reportedly 14 seconds between the time Vidal was tased and Vassey fired the gun shot that killed him.

Vassey also said, "I had no choice" and "I wasn't going to let him hurt you," according to the recordings.

Brunswick County Sheriff's Deputy Samantha Lewis was called to the stand Thursday afternoon following Thomas' testimony.

Lewis was the second person to arrive at Vidal's house.

Audio recordings played in court indicate Lewis said "put it down."

Lewis testified she was one of the first in Brunswick County to be trained in crisis intervention. The training preps law enforcement officers on ways to deal with those who may have mental illness.

"It was my understanding that it was possibly a psychiatric patient," said Lewis when asked about the initial call for help to 911 by Vidal's family.

Lewis eventually asked the court to address her by the name "Chavis."

Chavis was unable to confirm if the screwdriver shown in court was the same item Vidal had in his hand the day of the shooting. Chavis said she saw only saw part of the blade and none of the objects handle.

Similar to the testimony given by Thomas, Chavis testified that Vidal asked her if she wanted to fight him when she initially started talking to him.

Moments later, Vassey entered the home, according to Chavis. She said she heard him say something along the lines of, "We don't have time for this s**t, we're either going to tase him or subdue his a**."

At some point, Vidal stepped out of the officers' view and into a bathroom in the house.  When he came out he appeared to be coming at the officers, so Chavis deployed her taser.

In earlier testimony, Thomas said he got into a scuffle with Vidal while trying to get the screwdriver out of his hand. It was then that Chavis heard Thomas say "hit him again."

As Chavis went to deploy her taser, she realized it was not working properly. In that moment, she saw what described as a "black flash" and heard "a loud bang."

The most emotional moment of the testimony came as Chavis took a moment to collect herself at the stand. She was overcome with emotion remembering the incident.

"I watched his eyes go to death and he fell to the ground," said Chavis.

Chavis recalled seeing Vidal's mother as chaos erupted throughout the residence.

"I bear hugged her (Mary Wilsey) to keep her from going to Mr. Vidal," said Chavis.

When Chavis eventually got outside of the home to her car, Chavis said Vassey approached and said, "I did what I had to do to protect myself."

Vidal's stepsister, Chelsea Wilsey, was in court Thursday.

"I'm just trying to keep my head high and wait," she said. "It's very hard sitting through this and hearing the scenario happen over and over again. It's very hard and I'm just waiting for the ending and I'm waiting for the judge to declare him guilty."

Wilsey also mentioned that she won't be satisfied until Vassey is found guilty.

"I feel like he told the truth and his truth shows that Bryon Vassey was not, he did not do what he was supposed to do," added Wilsey.

Vassey's wife declined to comment Thursday about the trial.

Jasmine Turner spoke to Vidal's father, Joseph Vidal, Thursday by phone.

"After 2 years, it's been salt in the wounds to wait for this guy to go to trial and he's gotten every break and I have to admit these last two days gave me a little confidence in people and a little confidence in the community," he said.

Vidal said he wasn't happy when the judge made the decision to make it a bench trial.

"They distributed a lot of pain," he said. "My family included."

Vidal released this statement:

"I'd like to thank all the people who have rallied around Keith's family. I'm Keith's father and I held this newborn, five pound boy and I saw him grow into a young man, who wanted to be a grown up. With one shot Bryon Vassey changed all our lives. When you lose a child, the pain never ends. You just deal with it and live with it. We will deal with this forever, all of us. 70 seconds isn't enough time to make an educated decision and he was so cold and so heartless. He killed my boy. 98 pounds, tased on the ground and in front of his mother. I can't believe he could be so heartless. I'm outraged that some people have backed Officer Vassey and said that he handled it properly and I say shame on you. We need to address mental health issues. Our governor recently mentioned it. We need to challenge our governor to have hospitals and places that families can go and say my child needs help, even if the child is over 18. Once a child is over 18, people's hands are tied and yet we need to do this before someone dies. We pray Bryon Vassey is punished and we pray he never has a gun in his hand. Thank you and God bless."

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