Myrtle Beach says it has no operational control over the Drug Enforcement Unit that left Julian Betton paralyzed and also claims it did not know about the unit's alleged practice of entering homes without first knocking — a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The city says a federal magistrate judge erred when she concluded the city was responsible for the DEU's alleged behavior.
"The Magistrate Judge seems to conclude that because Betton's arrest occurred in the jurisdiction of the City, Betton was injured by the City's police department," the municipality states in a court filing objecting to the magistrate's report.
Betton was shot nine times by agents with the 15th Drug Enforcement Unit in 2015 during a drug raid. DEU agents fired nearly 30 shots and left Betton as a paraplegic.
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He had surveillance equipment on the front porch that showed officers rushing up to the house and using a battering ram to enter the apartment. There is no audio in the video, but officers do not appear to knock and announce their presence before waiting and entering.
While police officers testified that Betton drew and fired a gun, forensic testing found Betton did not fire a weapon. No criminal charges were filed against the officers involved.
Betton filed a civil suit against the city and several members of the DEU. This year some of the individual defendants settled with Betton for $2.75 million.
The case has garnered national attention.
In May, U.S. Magistrate Kaymani D. West filed a recommendation in the case. In her 45-page report, West found that the DEU had a "widespread and persistent" policy of not knocking, or announcing, and waiting a reasonable amount of time before forcing their way inside when executing search warrants.
West used testimony by some of the officers and the porch surveillance video to support her findings.
In its objection, the city took issue with those testimonies. One was by David McIntyre, who testified about the 30 search warrant executions he saw in six months with the DEU. McIntyre said DEU officers almost always entered without knocking or announced and entered at the same time. McIntyre did not testify that city officials participated in, or knew about, the alleged policy, the city contends in its objection.
Myrtle Beach officials did not participate in the day-to-day decisions of the DEU, a distinction the city noted several times in its filing.
The city argued that Myrtle Beach along with 20 agencies participate in the DEU. Former Police Chief Warren Call served on the board, but did not act in the decision making of the unit, according to the filing. That responsibility fell to the DEU commander or deputy leaders.
The judge was wrong when she stated that the DEU policies were the city's policies, the municipality contends.
Myrtle Beach also took exception with the judge's use of testimony by DEU officers David Belue and Frank Waddell. The two discussed the Betton raid and the city argues that neither of them suggested the DEU's practices were the city's policies.
Belue objects to report
In a separate filing, Belue also objected to the findings in West's recommendations, including one that he used excessive force when he shot Betton.
Belue argues that officers believed that Betton was a fugitive from Ohio. He openly displayed and had easy access to guns, Belue said, and drew a weapon in the officers' presence.
"A reasonable police officer would not assume that just because Betton was being arrested for selling marijuana, he would not use his drawn weapon to kill Belue," the filing reads.
Belue also argues that he entered Betton's apartment under circumstances that presented a threat of violence to the other officers.