MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – A federal appeals court handed a win to a man who was shot nine times by Drug Enforcement Unit officers in Myrtle Beach and was left paralyzed.
Julian Betton has filed a lawsuit against Myrtle Beach police officer David Belue, alleging unlawful entry and the use of excessive force in April 16, 2015 incident.
Belue filed a motion requesting to be shielded from the excessive force arguments in court. But a magistrate judge, South Carolina district court judge and now the U.S. 4th District Court of Appeals has denied that request.
Back in 2015, DEU agents began investigating Betton at his Myrtle Beach home and worked with a confidential informant who bought marijuana from Betton, according to court documents.
A warrant was obtained to permit entry into Betton’s place with a “knock and announce” procedure, meaning that officers would need to announce their presence before using forceful entry if there is no response from someone inside.
Eleven law enforcement officers went to Benton’s home, but court documents show that officers did not identify themselves.
“Without knocking or announcing their arrival, Officer Belue opened the screen door while Agent Guess used a battering ram to gain entry through the front door,” the court filing states.
According to documents, Betton stated that he was a step away from the living room where officers made forced entry and that he held a gun down by his hip but didn’t pull it up. That’s when documents show that three officers, including Belue, fired 29 shots and 9 of those shots hit Betton.
In court documents, Belue argues that the firing of his weapon was not excessive force and that it was justified because Betton posed a threat by drawing his gun.
But the U.S. 4th District Court of Appeals states that since Belue and the other officers did not identify themselves as officers, that makes a difference in the case.
“If Officer Belue or another officer had identified themselves as members of law enforcement, Officer Belue reasonably may have believed that Betton’s presence while holding a firearm posed a deadly threat to officers,” the ruling states.
The ruling also states that if Betton would have disobeyed a command given by officers then Belue may have reasonably feared for his safety.
“However, under our precedent, Officer Belue’s failure to employ any of these protective measures rendered his use of force unreasonable,” according to the ruling.
The federal court of appeals went on to say that it agrees with the district court that a jury could reasonably find that Belue violated Betton’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force.
Betton’s court battle with the city of Myrtle Beach and Betton will continue in a South Carolina courtroom.
A $2.75 million dollar settlement was reached between Betton and members of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit task force, the 15th Circuit Solicitor and other individuals who were involved in the drug raid.