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The Associated Press published this disturbing report this afternoon about the release of an autopsy of a mentally ill prison inmate who died of thirst.

Anthony Michael Kerr, 53, died when he was found unresponsive in March while being transported from a state prison in Taylorsville to Central Prison in Raleigh.

The article (by AP’s Michael Biesecker) also reported a state pathologist couldn’t determine if the death was of natural, accidental, or homicidal causes. The pathologist wasn’t given information by prison staff about when Kerr last ate or was given something to drink.
From the AP article.

In the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office report, pathologist Dr. Lauren Scott says a senior prison official allowed a “witnessed review” of an internal review into Kerr’s death, though the medical examiner’s office was not permitted to keep a copy. Scott wrote that the report left unanswered key details about the circumstances leading to Kerr’s death, including when the inmate last had access to food and water.

Because of the lack of information, the pathologist wrote that she was unable to make a determination about whether Kerr’s death should be classified as natural, accidental or homicide.

“Mr. Kerr’s psychiatric history was significant for schizoaffective disorder for which he was not receiving any treatment at the time of his death,” Scott wrote. “It was not possible to make any firm conclusions regarding the inmate’s nutrition and fluid intake, and whether or not his mental health and/or external factors played a role in the dehydration.”

Scott noted abrasions on Kerr’s forearms were “consistent with restraint devices.”

You can read the entire article here.

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Keith Vidal (Source: Facebook)

Keith Vidal (Source: Facebook)

Authorities are reviewing the shooting of Wilmington area teenager shot and killed Sunday by a police officer who responding to a call for help from the mentally ill teen’s family.

Keith Vidal, 18, was armed with a small screwdriver but family members have told Wilmington media other responding officers were successfully calming the youth down when a third officer arrived on the scene, according to what Vidal’s family told reporters from WECT in Wilmington.

[Mark] Wilsey said officers had his son down on the ground after the teen was tased a few times and an officer said, “we don’t have time for this.” That’s when Wilsey says the officer shot in between the officers holding the teen down, killing his son.

“There was no reason to shoot this kid,” Wilsey said. “They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son.”

A Southport Police Department detective, Byron Vassey, has been put on administrative leave in connection with the incident, Wilmington TV station WECT reported. Authorities have not said if Vassey was the shooter, but no other officers from the other police departments on the scene have been placed on leave.

The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.

The TV station also reviewed 911 documents that indicated the officer who shot the teen had arrived at the family’s home seconds before the shooting.

Vidal was a senior at South Brunswick High School and scheduled to graduate this spring, according to the Wilmington Star-News article about the shooting.

The national blog, ThinkProgress, has also picked up on shooting, and published a post today about the incident.

From the ThinkProgress post:

During Sunday’s incident, Vidal had apparently picked up a small screwdriver — small enough that it couldn’t have caused serious harm, his family says, but enough that they sought law enforcement assistance. Three different police departments’ officers arrived at the scene. The first two were able to restrain Vidal and calm him down, according to Vidal’s father. But then a third entered, and that’s when he says things went sour.

He says the third officer tased Vidal, knocking the 90-pound teenager to the ground. The officer then allegedly stepped forward with a firearm and said, “we don’t have time for this,” before shooting the teen dead.

Southport Police Department, one of the three North Carolina agencies that responded to the call, has put one of its detectives on administrative leave in relation to the case, reports WECT. The department did not say whether the officer was the one who had fired the weapon. The other departments, Boiling Spring Lakes PD and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office, said that they have not put their responding officers on leave. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.

In Durham, police will release a report to the public this week detailing how 17-year-old Jesus Huerta was killed when he was shot in the back of the head while alone and handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

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One of the most frustrating parts of the General Assembly’s ongoing move to renege on the Dix Park deal has been the out-of-the-blue concern that has materialized from conservatives for persons with mental illness. After working for years to underfund and privatize essential services (often, admittedly, in tandem with shortsighted Democrats), all of a sudden, these folks are desperate to sell off Dix for condos to get money to fund services for persons in need.

Conservative State Rep. Jim Fulghum of Raleigh wrote a letter to Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend, however, protesting that he was no Johnny-come-lately to the cause of helping people with mental illness and that he both supported the Dix park and somehow restructuring the lease to help persons with mental illness. Let’s hope he’s sincere.

The problem, of course, is that even sincerity of this kind isn’t gonna’ solve the state’s mental health challenge. As veteran lobbyist Paula Wolf noted in a “letter” to Fulghum on her “Paulatics” blog yesterday, Read More

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Craig Jarvis at Under the Dome has an encouraging story on today’s meeting of a special “blue ribbon” commission. The commission is dealing with the issue (highlighted here at NC Policy Watch on multiple occasions) in which the state has been unlawfully warehousing people with mental illness in adult care homes. 

“The 32-member Blue Ribbon Commission on Transitions to Community Living met for the first time and spent the day at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh getting up to speed on several pressing issues.

The state is working toward that goal in an agreement with the federal Department of Justice in order to avoid being sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A federal investigation alleged that the state wrongly confined thousands of people in adult care homes and institutions. Read More