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Testimony continues in trial of former Southport officer accused of manslaughter

Bryon Vassey (Source: BCSO) Bryon Vassey (Source: BCSO)
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    Court resumed Thursday morning with more testimony from Officer John Thomas with Boiling Spring Lakes for the trial against former Southport police sergeant Bryon Vassey. 

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    Wednesday marks day two of the bench trial involving former Southport Police sergeant Bryon Vassey. Items, including Vassey’s service weapon, a taser, gun shot residue, photographs of Vassey and shell casings from his weapon, were presented and reviewed by a former agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. 

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    Wednesday marks day two of the bench trial involving former Southport Police sergeant Bryon Vassey. Items, including Vassey’s service weapon, a taser, gun shot residue, photographs of Vassey and shell casings from his weapon, were presented and reviewed by a former agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. 

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    The trial involving a former Southport police sergeant is underway in Brunswick County. Brunswick County Judge Richard Brown heard opening statements for the bench trial from both prosecutors and Vassey’s defense team. 

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    The trial involving a former Southport police sergeant is underway in Brunswick County. Brunswick County Judge Richard Brown heard opening statements for the bench trial from both prosecutors and Vassey’s defense team. 

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) -

The trial continued Friday for a former Southport police sergeant who is accused of fatally shooting 18-year-old Keith Vidal while responding to a call in 2014.

Bryon Vassey was charged with voluntary manslaughter after he allegedly shot and killed Vidal at his home on President Drive on Jan. 5, 2014.

Vidal's parents called police for help that day after they say he was suffering from a schizophrenic episode and was carrying a screwdriver in his hand.

Deputy Samantha Lewis-Chavis

Brunswick County Sheriff's Deputy Samantha Lewis Chavis, the second officer to respond to the scene in 2014 continued her testimony Friday morning.

Chavis 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. She also has experience working with those suffering from mental illness.

Her goal on the day of the shooting was to "make sure no one got hurt."

She explained Thursday that Vidal asked her if she wanted to fight him when she initially started talking to him, and Vassey entered moments later.

Chavis told the courtroom she remembered Vassey saying something along the lines of, "We don't have time for this [expletive], we're either going to tase him or subdue his [expletive.]"

Audio from a police officer's body mic revealed Vassey was giving instructions to officers to tase Vidal. In the recording, you can hear Chavis saying, "Alright," and moments later saying, "Hey, hey!" because Vidal seemed to be coming towards officers in a fast pace.

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," Chavis recalled as she testified Thursday.

Chavis stood firm Friday that she was not paying attention to Vassey and says her eyes remained on Vidal throughout the incident.

She did eventually used her Taser on the young man, and when asked to use it a second time, she quickly realized but he had already been shot by Vassey.

Testimony Friday revealed Chavis was best friends with Vidal's older sister, Brittany Vidal, who died in 2007.

Brittany's death was seven years prior, and Chavis testified she didn't recognize Keith or his mother Mary Wilsey on the day of the shooting. She did not know Keith Vidal personally, and recalled him being only 10 or 11 years old when she and Brittany where friends.

Tyler Johnson

Boiling Spring Firefighter Tyler Johnson also took the stand Friday as a witness to the shooting. Johnson was not actively working that day, but heard radio communication and was familiar with the Vidal family. He explained his unit had responded to calls for service to the home three times prior to the day of the shooting.

Johnson testified Boiling Spring Lakes Police Officer John Thomas asked him to stand back so that Vidal would not get startled. He stepped on the front porch and was standing there when Vassey arrived.

Johnson remembers Vassey saying, "I'm here to kick [expletive] and take names," before entering the home.

Eventually Johnson went inside the home where things initially seemed calm. He later heard a Taser deploy and what sounded like an altercation between officers and Vidal.

He testified to hearing Officer John Thomas say, "Hit him again," asking officers to use Tasers on Vidal for a second time, but it was clear Chavis' Taser was not working properly.

While he did not actually see Vassey fire the shot, Johnson heard the gun go off, as well as the smoke alarms in the home.

"I saw blood and the floor and went to the ambulance to get medical bags," Johnson said about the moments after Keith was shot.

Friday's testimony went on to reveal that a short time after Vidal's death, his mother Mary Wilsey encountered Johnson in a restaurant and tried to give him a ribbon that said, "Justice for Keith."

Johnson remembered her saying something along the lines of, "Do the right thing, you know what happened."

Shannon Bennett

The final testimony of the day came from Shannon Bennett, a firefighter and EMT with the Sunny Point Fire Department. Bennett says he was one of three units called out to the Vidal home.

He remembers the way that Vassey got out of his car and walked up to the house.

"Just casual, didn't seem quick or anything else," Bennett said.

Bennett also testified to hearing Vassey saying "I'm here to kick [expletive] and take names," like Officer Johnson heard him say before entering the home.

While he could not hear much from inside, Bennett and other medics heard a taser deploy, and what appeared to be a gunshot.

While Vidal was being transported to the hospital Bennett, was among a few medics who stayed back to make sure Officer John Thomas, who was in a scuffle with Vidal, didn't need any major medical assistance.

After only two hours of testimony, Judge Richard Brown called court into recess for the weekend, testimonies will resume Monday at 10 a.m. 

WECT's Jasmine Turner has been tweeting about the trial from the courtroom. Follow her on Twitter @JasmineTurnerWECT.

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