Dash-cam video refutes police claim of justified shooting that left unarmed man paralyzed (VIDEO)
Dontrell Stephens, who was 20 in September 2013, was talking on a cell phone while riding his bike through West Palm Beach, Florida. His actions were captured on the dash-cam of Deputy Adams Lin's patrol car. Lin is a member of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.
Stephens was shot in the left hand, twice in the elbow and once in the chest, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Jack Scarola. He was in possession of marijuana, but was otherwise unarmed.
Stephens was left paralyzed from the waist down.
PBSO Sheriff Ric Bradshaw defended Lin. Both are named in the lawsuit, which Scarola filed on Stephens’ behalf.
“If they don’t (comply) and they have something in their hands and they’re going to make a move towards the deputy, they’re going to defend themselves,” Bradshaw told reporters the day of the shooting, according to the Palm Beach Post.
"Stop what you're doing and comply with us,” he added. “There’s nothing in the rules of engagement that says we have to put our lives in jeopardy to wait and find out what this is and get killed.”
An internal investigation cleared Lin of wrongdoing after four days, calling the shooting justified.
But Scarola told WPTV he discovered issues with the deputy’s statements after requesting and viewing all the video and audio recordings from the incident.
"There are no records of any commands ever made to Dontrell Stephens," he said. "The deputy's recorded statements following the shooting were absolutely false. Internal affairs completely ignored that evidence.”
Lin was on patrol as part of a community policing initiative in the area, which is known for drug deals, prostitution and shootings, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Moments after the dash-cam video begins, Stephens realizes he’s being followed. He pulls over, gets off his bike with the cell phone in his right hand and walks toward the deputy. He disappears for four seconds.
When he reappears, he is in the process of being shot four times by Lin.
Stephens, who has a criminal record for possessing cocaine, then ran from the bullets before dropping to the ground.
Repulsive Video. Thankful Dontrell Stephens is alive. Sorry he is paralyzed Riding his bike, he didn't ask 4 this. pic.twitter.com/IXImpaRPRz— Myecoll (@myecoll) April 24, 2015
Lin and another deputy are then heard talking about the incident.
"He starts backing away," Lin explains. "I said, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground'.”
“I got your back man,” the unnamed deputy replied. “I got your back. Hey, you hear me?”
Deputy Lin responds, “Yeah, I know.”
Along with his accusations that responding officers were complicit in clearing Lin of any wrongdoing, Scarola claims Lin used police brutality during the arrest.
“Not only was Stephens’ stop without cause, his arrest was secured with excessive force,” Scarola wrote of the shooting in his filing.
He also accuses Bradshaw of encouraging the use of stop-and-frisk, a controversial law-enforcement technique that has been used in other areas, most prominently in New York City.
The sheriff’s office, he claims, “has encouraged the use of ‘stop and frisk’ tactics in any area they deem to be ‘high crime'.” That policy, combined with inadequate training of deputies, he wrote, has contributed to a “deliberate indifference” to the constitutional rights of Palm Beach County residents.
The Stephens shooting was the sixth deputy-involved incident involving gunfire in West Palm Beach in 2013, according to the newspaper.
Lin’s dash-cam video was obtained by the Palm Beach Postand WPTV, a local NBC affiliate, as part of a joint investigation into police shootings. It was released in conjunction with a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed against PBSO.