A Myrtle Beach man who was shot nine times by drug agents in 2015 settled a lawsuit with the city this week for $8.5 million, his attorneys said Thursday.
Along with the money from other parties involved, that brings the total settlement amount to $11.25 million.
Julian Betton, who is paralyzed from the waist down, had sued the city, Solicitor Jimmy Richardson and the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit. The DEU is an agency made up of officers from departments throughout the region. In 2018, Betton reached a settlement with two of the agents who shot him and several leaders of the DEU for $2.75 million. His remaining dispute was with the city and officer David Belue and that trial had been scheduled to begin last month. The two sides reached a tentative agreement to resolve the civil case last month, but it was finalized Thursday.
“These are your officers. This is your community,” said Jonny McCoy, one of Betton’s attorneys, who stressed that the system needs to change. “We are not going to just move on. … If not, it’s going to keep happening over and over again.”
During a news conference at Horry Georgetown Technical College’s Myrtle Beach campus, Betton’s attorneys stressed that no one involved in the raid had faced consequences for shooting Betton.
City officials have said the insurance company that represents the city decided to settle the case.
The shooting happened at Betton’s Withers Swash apartment on April 16, 2015.
DEU agents came to Betton’s apartment looking for drugs. A confidential informant had purchased marijuana from Betton on two prior occasions and authorities had obtained warrants for his arrest, according to public records.
Court records indicate the DEU didn’t have a formal policy for executing search warrants when Betton was shot. Police can obtain no-knock warrants, but agents had a standard warrant when they raided Betton’s apartment that day. That means they would have been required to knock and announce themselves before entering.
Police initially said they had knocked on Betton's door and announced themselves. When they went inside, they said he started shooting at them, prompting them to return fire.
However, the evidence revealed the officers' accounts were not accurate. Although there’s no body camera or dash cam video of the shooting, Betton had a surveillance system at his apartment and that video depicts what happened outside the home.
“They had lied and lied and lied and lied again,” said Burton Craige, an attorney with Patterson Harkavy, a North Carolina firm that worked with Myrtle Beach-based McCoy on the case.
The video shows the officers directing one of Betton's neighbors to get on the ground. One officer then opens a screen door before another rams Betton’s front door. The video does not show an officer knocking. The video has no audio, so it’s unclear what, if anything, was said.
A neighbor who was on the ground told state investigators that the drug agents never knocked or identified themselves as police.
Betton has said he had a gun in his apartment, but he denied shooting at the police.
A State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation determined Betton told the truth: He never fired his weapon.
Yet an independent prosecutor who reviewed the case concluded that the agents who shot Betton — Belue, Frank Waddell and Chris Dennis — acted in self defense.
They did not face criminal charges.
During a hearing in the civil case in September, federal judges described the case as “horrendous” and “outrageous.”
“How is this case a bad guess in a gray area under our law?” Judge Barbara Milano Keenan said. “It doesn’t even seem to be a guess. They just came in to unload on this guy.”
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