Judge continues trial date for officer charged in 2014 shooting death of mentally ill teen

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Bryon Vance Vassey
Bryon Vance Vassey

A trial date set in the case of a Southport police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in the January 2014 fatal shooting of a mentally ill teen has been rescheduled in Brunswick County Superior Court.

The State’s case against 46-year-old Bryon Vassey was originally scheduled for trial on Feb. 15, but a defense motion to continue the case was granted by Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown on Monday afternoon, according to the Office of District Attorney Jon David. The case is now scheduled for an April 18 trial date.

Vassey, of Southport, has been charged with the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Keith Vidal, a mentally ill teenager who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, at his Boiling Spring Lakes home on Jan. 5, 2014.

A Brunswick County grand jury indicted Vassey, a nine-year veteran of the Southport Police Department, on the voluntary manslaughter charge in February 2014. That’s when District Attorney Jon David presented grand jurors with evidence to consider multiple charges: probable cause to charge Vassey with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or not to charge him at all.

The fatal incident occurred at the Vidal family home on Presidents Drive in Boiling Spring Lakes. In a more detailed account of events following Vassey’s indictment, David said the incident began at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 when Mark and Mary Wilsey—Vidal’s stepfather and mother—called 911 because they were concerned for the teen’s safety.

David’s account of the Jan. 5 shooting varied greatly from the one offered by defense attorney James Payne. David described the 18-year-old as a young man in crisis whose parents were seeking help so he wouldn’t harm himself. Payne said Vidal was stabbing a police officer when Vassey fired his weapon.

A fact not disputed by either side is that Vassey did shoot and kill Vidal. The teen was reportedly armed with a screwdriver, but Payne contests that the weapon the teen had during the incident was a pick.

Vassey was the last of three officers to arrive at the scene, David said. Shots were fired 1 minutes and 53 seconds after his arrival, he added.

The day following his indictment, Vassey turned himself in to the Brunswick County Jail where he was booked and released on a $50,000 bond.

The other officers present, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Deputy Samantha Lewis and Boiling Spring Lakes Police Officer John Thompson, have since been cleared by their respective agencies in incident.

Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger is prosecuting the case for the State.

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