Teen With Schizophrenia Shot and Killed By Police In Front of Family

18-year-old Keith Vidal was shot and killed by a police officer Sunday when authorities responded to a call for help from family members. Keith was in the midst of a schizophrenic episode.

According to early reports, Keith had picked up a small screwdriver and refused to put it down, an action which prompted the family to call police. Initially, two officers arrived on the scene. The following events, which ultimately led to Keith being shot, are not fully clear.

According to Keith’s father, “…all of a sudden, this Southport cop [the third officer to arrive on the scene], walked in the house [and said]: ‘I don’t have time for this. Tase him. Let’s get him out of here.”

The officer used a stun gun on Keith who, “hit the ground [and then] this guy shot him,” Keith’s father reported.

Shots were fired “seconds” after the third officer arrived.

Keith was declared dead soon after being rushed to the hospital.

When Keith’s father demanded to know why his stepson was shot, the officer said “well, I’m protecting my officers.”

Keith’s mother Mary told reporters that she had often tried to get help for her son’s mental illness. Apparently, to no avail.

The current mental health system is in shambles and it’s been this way for some time, especially for people with serious mental illnesses. There are now more people residing in jails and prisons across the United States, than in psychiatric hospitals. The Los Angeles County Jail, for instance, is considered the largest defacto psychiatric facility.

Police shootings of people with mental illnesses is not a new phenomenon. An investigation by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegraph uncovered “that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”

Their investigation also revealed that in the state of Maine, the Attorney General’s Office, which investigated all of the police shootings, never found one of the shootings to be unjustified.

There are also no federal statistics about police shootings of mentally ill people.

I have worked with many police officers who were called upon to deal with severely mentally ill people. Some felt that it wasn’t their job to deal with “those people” but many others were kind, compassionate and patient with those of whom they were attempting to help.

Studies show that police officers who have undergone crisis intervention training (CIT), are better able to effectively de-escalate a mental health crisis. CIT should be mandatory for all law enforcement officials, at least until they are no longer the front-line responders in mental health emergencies.

Keith’s parents have said that the policeman who shot their son is a cold-blooded murderer.

Keith’s parents said they cannot understand what happened.

“Where is the justice, why did they shoot my son? This is what’s wrong with our mental health system.”

The authorities are investigating the events.

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2 thoughts on “Teen With Schizophrenia Shot and Killed By Police In Front of Family

  1. This senseless slaughter of mentally ill residents by police officers who are supposed to protect and serve has to stop.

    I hope the prosecutor will prosecute the officer who senselessly shot this mentally ill paranoid schizophrenic teenager.

    Juan Martinez was criticized by some Phoenix police officers for the prosecution of former police officer Richard Chrismon for shooting and killing a mentally ill young Hispanic man and his dog during a domestic violence call. It paid off because the jury found him guilty of aggravated assault and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter to avoid another trial on second degree murder. Although Martinez asked for a sentence of 15 years, the judge sentenced him to seven years. This isn’t a very stiff sentence for senselessly shooting and killing a man but usually police officers are never convicted of any crime when they kill someone while on duty.

    I hope the prosecutors will get a conviction in the trial of two ex police officers who murdered a mentally ill homeless man who was tasered and beaten to death. The jury saw a tape of the homeless man being beaten by multiple officers even after he apologized and said he couldn’t breath. The prosecutor and defense just gave their closing arguments so hopefully we will soon see a guilty verdict in the Kelly Thomas case.

    Police officers should be trained on how to handle the mentally ill, especially paranoid schizophrenics, who become agitated and fight back when they see police officers with guns and fear they are going to be killed.

    If juries convict bad cops for being trigger happy, maybe other police officers will think twice before they think a badge and a gun is a free license to kill.

  2. I’m glad you posted this case Dr Randle. I saw the story when it came out and the family was on tv talking about it and I was very upset. It’s so hard to understand how it could happen except to say some people in law enforcement think having a gun entitles them to shoot it at whoever – whenever they see fit.

    You’re right, CIT should be mandatory for law enforcement. We probably wouldn’t have an epidemic of mass shootings either if the mental health system wasn’t in shambles. Sad.

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