Myrtle Beach, SC — The taxpayers of South Carolina were put on notice this week that they will be the ones footing the record $8.5 million bill for the cops who dumped dozens of rounds into a Myrtle Beach man over $100 worth of pot. The victim, Julian Betton was left paralyzed by Drug Enforcement Unit officers with Myrtle Beach police hell bent on eradicating a plant that is legal in some form in most of the country.
Burton Craige, an attorney with the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Patterson Harkavy law firm, said Myrtle Beach officials agreed to an $8.5 million settlement, according to WMBF.
Betton sued the city and officer David Belue, alleging unlawful entry and the use of excessive force in the April 16, 2015 raid. The latest settlement comes after Betton already received $2.75 million from the Drug Enforcement Unit task force. The city of Myrtle Beach and Belue were the only remaining defendants, according to WMBF.
In total, $11.25 million was paid out to resolve cops trying to murder a man for possessing a little bit of a plant.
WMBF reports that Jonny McCoy, one of Betton’s attorneys, said he’s not sure if the civil settlement is enough for his client.
“I’ve apologized to Julian Betton so many times that he’s going through this. We all have. And $11.25 million? I’m sorry, is that enough? I don’t know,” McCoy said.
Radley Balko summed up the near-homicide of this low-level Myrtle Beach pot dealer at the hands of police.
Julian Betton’s offense was to sell $100 worth of pot to a friend. For that, South Carolina police battered down his door, fired 57 shots at him and hit him nine times, leaving him paralyzed and without the use of several major body organs. The cops then lied about the circumstances of the raid to make it seem as if Betton deserved every bullet. When Betton awoke from a coma, his leg was shackled to the hospital bed. Prosecutors then charged him with several felonies — enough of them to put him in prison for the rest of his life, should he survive his injuries. For those two sales of pot totaling $100, Betton will not only be saddled with paralysis and debilitating injury, he’ll also have a felony record. The cops who broke down his door, filled him with bullets and then lied about what had happened will suffer no punishment at all.
What Balko’s synopsis doesn’t reveal, is that there were a series of cover-ups the police raid team engaged in, and what might seem like a team effort to coordinate their stories in the aftermath of the planned conflict. First, the team did not seek after, nor secure a no-knock raid warrant. Betton’s high-definition security footage reveals the police officers made no such effort to knock on the door, which is required by law, even though their police reports stated they did knock and announced their presence.
Secondly, the footage also reveals the team was not dressed as SWAT team members are typically dressed, used unmarked cars, and moved so swiftly in an effort to breach the door with a battery ram, that Betton’s neighbor actually thought a robbery was taking place. The confusion over the identity of the intruders, their no-knock breach of the front door, and the swiftness at which they moved, may have given Benton cause to arm himself, something for which Balko says he would have been justified.
The attempt to coordinate a cover-up appears to have continued, with each officer on the scene turning on their body cameras only after they shot the marijuana dealer 9 times. Betton’s wounds were described by Balko.
He ended up losing his gallbladder and parts of his bowel, colon and rectum. The bullets also damaged his liver, small intestine and pancreas. His lung partially collapsed. His left leg was broken. One of his vertebrae was partially destroyed; two others were fractured. He’ll never walk again or be able to have kids of his own. He’ll also need to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.
No one disputes the shooting took place, but because each member of the team turned on their body cameras at the same time, no footage of the actual shooting exists, only the aftermath has been recorded. That may mean the officers later had someone delete the footage, or it may mean they simply forgot to turn on their cameras and only did so after the shooting occurred. The latter is not very likely. After all, why would each member of the team decide to turn on their cameras only after the shooting happened? The answer may also mean they were instructed to do so.
Police say Betton fired at the police raid team as they penetrated his home, which gave them just cause to engage the cannabis dealer with their deadly fire. But ballistics tests later confirmed Betton had not fired his handgun at all, a conclusion which means the police lied about him firing his sidearm.
Illustrating the ridiculous nature of the raid, Betton pleaded guilty in 2017 to possession and distribution of 100 dollars worth of marijuana. And in what could be an indictment on the official police narrative, the prosecutor dropped all gun charges against the now handicapped man. Coincidentally, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigated the shooting and, predictably, cleared all the officers involved in the shooting.
The city of Myrtle Beach released a statement on Thursday admitting the cops were wrong and said they have taken actions, such as quitting the drug enforcement unit, to prevent further cases like this from happening.
As noted in January, the insurance company representing the City of Myrtle Beach made a decision to settle the case involving Julian Betton. We believe that reaching this agreement was not only right for the city, but also for Mr. Betton. The city’s officers in this case were part of a multi-officer team under the jurisdiction of the Horry County Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU). As noted by Mr. Betton’s attorneys, retired Police Chief Warren Gall conducted an investigation of the operation and identified a number of deficiencies. As a result, the Myrtle Beach Police Department no longer participates in the Drug Enforcement Unit. The Myrtle Beach Police Department has policies and training in place governing search warrants and their execution to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of our citizens. Myrtle Beach also was one of the first departments in the state to equip its officers with body-worn cameras. Our officers are required to wear and activate those cameras for the protection of the public and the city.