Crime

Police officers involved in April shooting of Myrtle Beach man will not face criminal charges

A shooting scene is being investigated off Withers Swash Drive in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Officers with the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit were serving a narcotics warrant at 602 Withers Swash Drive. As the officers were serving the warrant, gunfire was exchanged.
A shooting scene is being investigated off Withers Swash Drive in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Officers with the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit were serving a narcotics warrant at 602 Withers Swash Drive. As the officers were serving the warrant, gunfire was exchanged. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

The three police officers who shot a Myrtle Beach man inside his apartment in April will not face any criminal charges, according to the independent prosecutor who reviewed the case.

Kevin Brackett, who examined the case at the request of 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson, said Friday that the three members of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit acted appropriately when they shot 30-year-old Julian Betton inside his home on Withers Swash Drive. The officers’ conduct was investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

“The officers were justified in their use of force,” said Brackett, the top prosecutor in York and Union counties. “They were acting in their own defense.”

Betton never fired at police, but he was armed with a handgun and pointed it at the officers when they came to his home April 16 to serve search and arrest warrants as part of a marijuana investigation, Brackett said. In response, police fired at him, striking him numerous times.

Richardson, who oversees the drug unit, had originally said Betton fired at police.

“I wasn’t at the scene when it happened, so that was the information given to me,” Richardson said Friday. “ I can understand that when you rush into the house with gunfire there’s sort of a fog. They must have thought they were fired upon.”

Police recovered an assault rifle and a handgun from Betton’s apartment, Brackett said. The SLED investigation found Betton had several closed-circuit cameras along the outside of his home.

“This was an armed dealer – holed up in his apartment – with heavy duty firearms and surveillance equipment,” Brackett said. “This wasn’t a regular drug pad – it was sophisticated.”

Brackett determined the evidence does not support any criminal charges against the officers: Frank Waddell of the Coastal Carolina University Police Department; Chris Dennis of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office and Myrtle Beach Police Officer David Belue.

Narcotics officers went to Betton’s apartment with search and arrest warrants because they had twice recorded him selling marijuana to a confidential informant, according to the solicitor’s account in a forfeiture petition.

The informant bought 7 grams of pot from Betton on March 24 and 8 grams on April 7, according to Richardson’s filing.

Officials found $970 in Betton’s pants. They also seized 221.6 grams of marijuana found in 10 separate containers, according to Betton’s arrest warrants.

On June 29, Betton was charged with three counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He has not been charged with any weapons violation.

Brackett said Betton should not have even owned a firearm because he has a drug trafficking conviction in Ohio.

Richardson, the local solicitor, said his office must now decide whether to prosecute Betton on the drug charges and any other charges that may arise. Richarson said it’s “very possible” Betton could be facing more charges, especially since the SLED report claims he pulled a gun on police.

Betton’s attorney, Jonny McCoy, questions the police account of the shooting and wants to see what evidence prosecutors have.

“An intelligent human being knows you’re not going to prison over [this amount of] weed,” McCoy said. “I’ve had [clients found with] bags and bags of plants and you just get probation. These guys know they’re not going to prison over weed. This guy would have ran if he had known that police were at his door. There’s no way he would have stood and fought. There’s no way.”

Betton told The Sun News he was shot nine times. He was released from Grand Strand Medical Center earlier this week but remains paralyzed.

Contact CLAIRE BYUN at 626-0381 and follow her on Twitter @Claire_TSN.

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