An amended complaint adds the city of Myrtle Beach to a list of defendants being sued by a man who was paralyzed when drug agents shot him nine times during a raid at his home.
The new complaint filed May 22 alleges Myrtle Beach “gave its authority to exercise police powers” relating to drug cases to the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit by dissolving its narcotics division in 2006 when the multi-jurisdictional DEU was formed.
The city denied the DEU has command over all its drug investigations in an answer to the complaint filed May 30.
“The complaint fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against (the city),” the city’s attorney, Michael Battle said in the response. He added that it also “fails to raise any genuine issue of triable fact.”
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The city is asking for the complaint to be dismissed.
Julian Ray Betton filed a lawsuit against the agents, who shot him, and the men who led the drug unit in November 2015, a day after solicitors added weapons charges, accusing Betton of pointing a gun at the officers who shot him.
Those charges were later dropped, months after a State Law Enforcement Division investigation revealed Betton never fired at the agents.
Betton, 32, pleaded guilty to two drug counts, sitting before a judge on a gurney inside an Horry County courtroom in March. He was sentenced to five years for each charge, but his sentences were suspended as “time served.” The gun charges were dropped.
Betton’s lawsuit was put on hold in federal court until his criminal charges could be decided. His attorneys said they planned to resume the lawsuit after Betton’s final court hearing in March.
The complaint in the lawsuit states Chad Guess, a member of the DEU, “twice gave a confidential informant $100 to purchase marijuana” from Betton.
“On each occasion, the confidential informant reported that she used the money to purchase a small quantity of marijuana from Betton,” according to the court filing.
Guess used the informant’s reports to obtain an arrest warrant for Betton and a search warrant for his apartment, the complaint states.
But instead of arresting Betton as he walked past agents on his way to a nearby convenience store, Betton’s lawyers say, the officers waited for him to return home before storming his apartment.
Betton’s complaint says the agents never knocked or announced who they were before using a battering ram to knock down his unlocked front door on April 16, 2015.
In his lawsuit, Betton claims he was walking out of the bathroom when he was startled by armed strangers – one wearing a mask, some with backward baseball caps, but all wearing bulletproof vests – in his apartment. Betton said he had purchased guns and a security camera after he was attacked and robbed by a group of men in his apartment in 2014.
Betton had a gun in his waistband when officers entered his home that April, but claims he never tried to shoot it.
Officers “opened fire” seconds later, shooting “29 bullets at Betton, nine of which hit him,” according to the new complaint. Betton’s injuries put him in a coma for six weeks and left him paralyzed from the waist down, his attorneys say.
Defendants targeted in the lawsuit claim Betton’s injuries and damages were caused by Betton’s own acts of “negligence.”
In addition to the city, Betton has filed suit against Bill Knowles, commander of the DEU; Jimmy Richardson, 15th Circuit solicitor, who oversees the DEU; and, DEU drug agents Dean Bishop, Chad Guess, Frank Waddell, Chris Dennis and David BeLue.
The lawsuit claims that BeLue fired at Betton nine times, Dennis pulled his trigger 10 times and Waddell shot nine times during the raid. Twenty of the shots hit the ceiling, walls and floor, with one continuing through Betton’s back wall, hitting the wall of a neighboring house, according to the complaint.
Betton’s lawyers say that officers continued to fire at Betton, striking him several times after he fell to the ground.
“After shooting Betton, defendants laughed and gave each other high-fives in the front yard of the apartment,” the complaint states. “Although multiple agents were equipped with body-worn cameras during the Betton raid, none were turned on at the time of the entry and shooting.”
In his lawsuit, Betton is bringing Fourth Amendment claims of unlawful entry against all defendants; excessive force and state law claims of excessive battery against the three officers who shot him; state law claims of assault and trespass against Guess, Waddell, Dennis and BeLue; and, state law claims of civil conspiracy against all defendants except Richardson.
Betton is seeking an unspecified amount for compensatory, punitive and emotional damages and compensation to cover his attorneys fees. He is also seeking a trial by jury for any “contested issues of fact.”