Mother's testimony: 'It's just not something you do every day, watch your son be killed'

Mother's testimony: 'It's just not something you do every day, watch your son be killed'
Bryon Vassey
Brunswick County Courthouse (Source: WECT)
Brunswick County Courthouse (Source: WECT)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Court resumed Monday morning in the bench trial involving former Southport police sergeant Bryon Vassey, who is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 18-year-old Keith Vidal.

Vidal's parents said their son suffered from Schizophrenia and his mother was worried for his well being on the day of the shooting.

Mary Wilsey

Mary Wilsey, Keith Vidal's mother, took the stand Monday and told the court that her son started showing signs of mental illness about two years before the shooting. She said he was taking medication, including Latuda and Xanax, at the time.

Wilsey recalled going to the store with her husband Mark on the day of the shooting. When the couple returned home, Vidal was sitting in a chair in their living room. She got eye level with her son who said, "Hey John, want to fight to her?"

It became clear that Vidal did not know his mother. She said her son then grabbed a screwdriver out of a drawer.

Wilsey asked her husband to call 9-1-1 because she felt that her son needed to see a mental health expert. She was afraid he might hurt himself.

The first officer to arrive to Wilsey's home was Officer John Thomas with the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department. When Thomas arrived, Vidal was using a monotone voice and speaking quietly with Thomas for about 10 to 15 minutes. Wilsey said her son refused to hand over the screwdriver.

Wilsey later remembered Deputy Samantha Lewis Chavis arriving at her home. Moments after Chavis arrived, Bryon Vassey walked through the front door of the home.

Wilsey also testified hearing Vassey say, "I don't have time for the [expletive] tase him, take him down now," which is the same thing Deputy Samantha Lewis Chavis recalled during testimony on Friday.

After her son was tased, Wilsey remembered seeing Vidal fall to the ground and later saw a gun in the corner of her eye.

After Vidal was shot, Wilsey said she and her husband started screaming and cursing. Wilsey became overwhelmed with emotion on the stand Monday.

As the defense began their cross examination Monday afternoon, Wilsey went through Vidal's medical history.

We learned that Vidal was diagnosed with PTSD at the age of ten.  He first threatened to hurt himself when he was about 16 in 2012 and was later taken to a hospital.

Vidal was first diagnosed as manic depressive, which his mother disagreed with, but said she continued to get him treatments until he was officially diagnosed with what she thought he had. Wilsey also testified that her son had been involuntarily committed to a hospital at least twice prior to his death.

Court resumed after a lunch recess, where the defense asked Wilsey more questions Keith Vidal's mental health. Wilsey never recalls her son wanting to hurt others, her main concern was always to make sure Vidal never hurt himself. She also told the court she never felt like her son would hurt her, even on the day of the shooting.

As she spoke about January 5 2014, the day Vidal was shot, she testified that she regrets the telling her husband Mark Wilsey to call for help

While the family had called for help for Vidal before, Mary Wilsey says Vidal was threatened by officers because of a previous incident. Wilsey said Vidal was "manhandled" by several officers before he was taken to a hospital. On the day of the shooting when Officer John Thomas and Deputy Samantha Lewis-Chavis arrived to her home, Wilsey says everyone's goal was to get the screwdriver out of Vidal's hand.

While there have been some questions about whether the screwdriver Vidal had in his hand was possibly a pick, Wilsey said she believed it was a Phillips head screwdriver, and doesn't recall having any picks in her home.

Wilsey told the court her son was never told to put the screwdriver down, she says he was tased without being warned.

Mary and Mark Wilsey have been vocal about Vidal's death since the shooting first happened in 2014. They have done several television and newspaper interviews. The defense asked Wilsey Monday  why she has spoken with so many media outlets about her son.

Wilsey also told the defense, her family didn't want Vidal's death to be "swept under the rug," and they were hoping to bring to light issues with law enforcement and those with mental illness. There is currently a "Justice for Keith Vidal" page on Facebook with more than 1,000 members.

Prior to court going into recess Monday, Wilsey confirmed that a civil lawsuit has been filed in this case, Wilsey is seeking $5 million in damages from it.

Court will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. WECT's Jasmine Turner has been tweeting about the trial from the courtroom. Follow her on Twitter @JasmineTurnerWECT.

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