City argues it’s not responsible for DEU policies in regards to Betton shooting

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Myrtle Beach leaders are taking issue with a magistrate judge's recommendation that the city be held liable for the "alleged unconstitutional customs and policies" of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit in reference to the 2015 shooting and paralyzing of Julian Betton.

In June, the city filed its objection to Judge Kaymani West's report and recommendation, which included the finding that the city be held liable for the DEU's alleged policy of failing to knock and announce its presence before entering a home.

Law enforcement officers stormed Betton's home in April 2015 while serving a narcotics warrant. He was shot nine times and left paralyzed from the waist down.

Betton filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Myrtle Beach and members of the DEU. In the spring, a $2.75 million settlement was reached with many of the defendants.

The claims against the city and Myrtle Beach police officer David Belue have not been settled.

In May, West submitted her report and recommendation following motions for summary judgment filed by both the city of Myrtle Beach and Belue.

Belue's motion for summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part, while the city's was denied altogether.

In her recommendation, West noted the city entered into an agreement with the DEU and "thereby ratified the DEU's standard operating procedures," which included allegations the DEU agents did not knock before going into Betton's home.

"First, there is no evidence the City policy makers or Chief (Warren) Gall had any direct knowledge of DEU's alleged failure to knock and announce policy," according to the city's objection. "Second, the DEU agreement, approved by the City, expressly provided that direct agency supervision would be left to the DEU Commander of Deputy Commanders. In order to maintain operation security, participating agencies (i.e. the City) agreed to avoid unnecessary involvement in DEU investigations. "

In March 2017, all gun charges against Betton were dropped, and he pleaded guilty to selling $100 worth of marijuana one time to a friend.

Originally, officers told the solicitor that Betton shot back, but the same report that cleared the officers from charges also found that Betton hadn't fired any weapons.

For its part, city officials want the court to rule that it can't properly be held liable for the "policies of an independent multi-jurisdictional task force to which it has transferred its officers."

"The city respectfully contends that the DEU Agreement, the state statute, and Chief Gall's role with DEU all show that DEU was the final policy maker for the DEU," the city's objection states. "The City is not liable for DEU's policies because it was not the final policy maker for that entity."

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