MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A federal judge has ruled that a jury could find the city of Myrtle Beach shares responsibility for the 2015 actions of the Drug Enforcement Unit that left a man paralyzed after being shot nine times, and denied its motion for summary judgment.
U.S. District Judge Marvin Quattlebaum ruled on the recommendations made by a magistrate judge in the ongoing lawsuit filed by Julian Betton against the city.
The city has argued that it was not responsible for the alleged unconstitutional customs and policies that led to Betton's injuries. Documents filed July 12 detail what Betton says happened, including DEU agents firing 29 shots at him seconds after entering his home, hitting him nine times and paralyzing him for life.
Back in June, the city filed its objection to a judge's recommendation to find the city liable for the DEU's alleged pattern and policy of not knocking and announcing its presence before entering a home.
City officials wanted the court to rule that it cannot properly be held liable for the "policies of an independent multi-jurisdictional task force to which it has transferred its officers."
Quattlebaum's ruling, which was filed on Aug. 7, states the magistrate judge was correct in the conclusion that a jury could find that Myrtle Beach and police Chief Warren Gall knew of the DEU's "alleged widespread practice or custom of executing standard search warrants without first knocking and announcing."
"In sum, the Magistrate Judge acknowledged that a reasonable jury could conclude that … Myrtle Beach's failure to address and correct the alleged deficiencies in the DEU search warrant policies and practices exhibited deliberate indifference for which Myrtle Beach was responsible," the ruling stated in part.
Quattlebaum went on to say the magistrate judge gave "appropriate care" when considering the relationship between the city, Gall, the DEU and the DEU governing board.
"Additionally, Chief Gall signed the agreement on behalf of the Myrtle Beach Police Department. These provisions constitute evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that Myrtle Beach ratified, adopted or otherwise approved of the action or inaction of the DEU," court documents state.
Law enforcement officers stormed Betton's home in April 2015 while serving a narcotics warrant. He was shot 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.
Quattlebaum's ruling also addressed a motion for summary judgment filed by DEU officer David Belue, who is still a defendant in the case.
The judge sided with Belue in reference to alleged "tactical excessive force violations," but denied the defendant's request in reference to other claims made against him.