Southport Police Officer Bryon Vassey was protecting another officer when he shot and killed 18-year-old Keith Vidal at the teenager's Boiling Spring Lakes home on Sunday, according to a statement released Wednesday by the N.C. Police Benevolent Association (NCPBA).
Boiling Spring Lakes Officer John Thomas, Brunswick County Sheriff's Office Deputy Samantha Lewis and Vassey used appropriate procedures for armed domestic calls, according to the statement.
Mark Wilsey, Vidal's stepfather, said Wednesday afternoon that the family is planning to hold a press conference to respond to the benevolent association's version of events
During the initial 911 call, Wilsey said the teenager wanted to fight his mother and was carrying a screwdriver. Vidal repeatedly refused to surrender that screwdriver after police arrived, according to the NCPBA statement.
Shortly after Vassey arrived on scene, two officers tased Vidal. In a statement on Wednesday, Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram confirmed Lewis used her stun gun, but not her firearm.
"After being tased, Vidal made physical contact with Officer Thomas using the hand holding the deadly weapon," the NCPBA statement said. "The officers present realized the immediate and deadly threat to Officer Thomas's life. Detective Vassey employed authorized law enforcement action to stop the continuing threat of deadly harm to Officer Thomas and others."
On radio traffic with Brunswick County 911 dispatch, Vassey can be heard saying he used deadly force to protect himself.
"He was protecting himself and Officer Thomas," said John Midgette, the NCPBA's executive director, Wednesday afternoon.
Midgette added evidence he's seen proves "it was clear beyond doubt" that Vassey's actions were appropriate.
Thomas and Vassey are both members of the NCPBA, a trade association that provides officers with legal aid if they need it as a result of events that occur in the line of duty.
Lewis is not a member.
Vassey is being represented by James Payne and Thomas is being represented by Mike McGuinness. Payne confirmed Wednesday that his client allegedly fired his weapon during the encounter.
During a press conference Monday, Wilsey said he and two officers were struggling with the teenager after Vidal was tased, but before he was shot. At that point, Vassey reached around Wilsey and fired his gun.
"He could have hit the officer," Wilsey said.
Tuesday, Boiling Spring Lakes and the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office cleared Thomas and Lewis, respectively, of any wrongdoing in the incident.
Vassey, however, is still on paid administrative leave and the Southport Police Department's investigation into his conduct is still open, said Chief Jerry Dove on Wednesday afternoon.
Dove said he is likely to wait until the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation finishes its ongoing investigation before completing his agency's inquiry.
"I have turned it over to (the SBI), basically," he said.
All three officers are still subject to the ongoing SBI probe, McGuinness said.
Speaking specifically about the decision to return Thomas to the force after about two days with an SBI investigation ongoing, Midgette said, "We are not surprised by the chief's decision in the sense that we believe both officers acted as per their training."
Family members on Monday praised the manner both Lewis and Thomas approached Vidal.
Emergency personnel have been to the President Drive home where Vidal lived nine times since Jan. 1, 2013, according to Brunswick County 911 records.
At least three of those occasions were for medical calls, but it is unclear from records if those situations involved the teenager.
Of the other calls, five were officer-initiated and one was related to a possible probation violation, according to records. Again, it is unclear if any of those calls were related to Vidal.
Wilsey said Monday that Thomas was familiar with Vidal.
The teenager did not have a criminal record, according to N.C. Department of Correction records.
Copyright 2014 - Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service