West Palm Beach, Fla. – Nearly eight years after unnarmed Dontrell Stephens was shot by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy and forced to live partially paralyzed in a wheelchair, his attorney said the 28-year-old died on Sunday, Aug. 29 from complications including the bed sores that can kill paraplegics.
Back in 2013, the gun that Deputy Adams Lin said Stephens was holding, turned out to be a cell phone.
In 2016 a federal civil jury, watching a video that showed Lin shooting Stephens, unanimously said Lin had used excessive force, and that for his severed spine and other injuries Stephens deserved $22 million – which Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw refused to pay.
As Bradshaw vigorously fought, Stephens’ health languished, until his attorney Jack Scarola in 2020 accepted the $6 million payment the state Legislature awarded – above Bradshaw’s $4.5 million ﬁnal offer – which was approved by the governor.
Scarola said the money would have allowed Stephens to live some semblance of a normal life.
In between, Scarola said Stephens was set up in a bust for selling an undercover sheriff’s deputy a small quantity of marijuana, cocaine and cough syrup, for which the sheriff’s department denied he was targeted, the Palm Beach Post reported.
The newspaper also found that county deputies in one of four shootings ﬁred at unarmed suspects; disproportionately shot at young Black men, a third of whom were unarmed; rarely ﬁrst used nondeadly options such as Tasers or batons; and rarely were found at fault in shootings, sometimes based on cursory or incomplete investigations.
Public outrage had followed the video that showed Lin ﬁring four shots immediately after stepping out of his patrol car.
Lin said he pursued Stephens, then 20, in his patrol car after Stephens rode his bicycle across a busy road through trafﬁc.
Videotape from Lin’s dashboard camera showed that when Stephens saw Lin behind him as he rode into a duplex’s parking lot, he slowed his bike and hopped off.
Lin, an Asian American, testiﬁed at the 2016 trial that he thought Stephens was trying to run away and jumped out of his car to cut him off. The video shows that after Stephens hopped off his bike, he walked toward Lin.
The deputy is out of sight of the dash cam and Stephens is mostly out of sight when Lin opens ﬁre four seconds after Stephens jumped off the bike. Stephens falls back into view with Lin close behind, still ﬁring.
Lin testiﬁed at the 2016 civil trial that Stephens put his left hand behind his back and flashed a dark object that he thought was a gn.
The dash cam video, however, showed Stephens had his phone in his right hand and that his left hand was empty.
Stephens’ attorneys argued that Lin must have pulled his gun almost immediately after leaving his car as he could not have opened ﬁre so quickly otherwise.
The jury took 3½ hours to side with Stephens, ruling that Lin had violated Stephens’ civil rights.
Prosecutors cleared Lin of criminal wrongdoing and he remained employed by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Ofﬁce.
The video (caution, likely disturbing. some): youtube.com/watch?v=w_f55bNISug