Carolyn Murray

Dear Reader | Asking questions: It’s what good journalists do

"I come out of the bathroom and I just see figures and it's boom, boom, boom. I'm dead," Julian Betton says from his bed on Friday, July 10, 2015. He's recounting what he remembers of the mid-April day he was shot at least nine times by officers executing a warrant at his Withers Swash Drive apartment. After seeing the figures, he woke up from a coma six weeks later and is paralyzed. The three officers involved in the shooting are with the 15 Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit. They have been cleared of any charges by the State Law Enforcement Division. The SLED report states Betton did not fire at the officers. The shooting happened in the execution of a warrant stemming from a marijuana investigation. Officers seized less than eight ounces of marijuana, $970 in cash, an assault rifle and a handgun in the April 16 incident. Betton has been charged with three counts of possession with intent to distribute but he has not been charged with weapons violations.
"I come out of the bathroom and I just see figures and it's boom, boom, boom. I'm dead," Julian Betton says from his bed on Friday, July 10, 2015. He's recounting what he remembers of the mid-April day he was shot at least nine times by officers executing a warrant at his Withers Swash Drive apartment. After seeing the figures, he woke up from a coma six weeks later and is paralyzed. The three officers involved in the shooting are with the 15 Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit. They have been cleared of any charges by the State Law Enforcement Division. The SLED report states Betton did not fire at the officers. The shooting happened in the execution of a warrant stemming from a marijuana investigation. Officers seized less than eight ounces of marijuana, $970 in cash, an assault rifle and a handgun in the April 16 incident. Betton has been charged with three counts of possession with intent to distribute but he has not been charged with weapons violations. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

“If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” a saying that reportedly got its start with the City News Service in Chicago, has become a guiding principle for journalists. It means that we should never just take a source’s word (even if that source is mom) for something without confirming it.

That’s why we spent time looking into the circumstances of an April 16 raid by the cross-jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit in which a man suspected of trafficking marijuana was shot at least nine times. He was in a coma for weeks, and is now paralyzed, the article reported by Claire Byun and Charles Perry told print readers on Sunday.

Authorities recovered about 8 ounces of pot, according to the arrest warrants. Betton was charged June 29 with three counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He has not, at least as yet, been charged with resisting arrest or attempting to fire on police officers.

Early reports said the suspect fired a weapon at the officers. The follow-up investigation of the arrest by State Law Enforcement Division found the suspect had not fired any shots. He did, however, have a handgun, which the officers carrying out the search warrant said he pointed at them. The SLED report concluded that the officers were justified in their response.

Did he, as one commenter suggested, just get what was coming to him? Or did the three officers fail to follow procedure by not identifying themselves as they came through the door, as witnesses say?

Did Julian Betton think he was defending himself in a home invasion, as he claims?

We don’t profess to know the answers to these questions. Our job is to provide readers with as much information from as many sources as possible. I am confident we gave all sides a chance to air their points-of-view.

In light of reports across the country of excessive force involving minority suspects — including the fatal shooting of Walter Scott by a North Charleston police officer 12 days before the raid on Betton — it is important to raise the questions and dig deeper into the circumstances.

We will keep digging, on this and other topics that involve the actions of public employees and elected officials who are paid through your tax dollars. That’s our job and we take it seriously.

Community service

Another thing we take seriously as a company is helping serve the needs of our community, which is why we hosted our second blood drive of the year drive for the American Red Cross just before July 4.

The result? Donors contributed 14 pints to help replenish the blood bank, which is especially important over summer holiday weekends when fewer people donate. Each pint can help save up to three people, according to Krystal Overmyer, communications manager for the S.C. Red Cross.

Contact CAROLYN CALLISON MURRAY, editor, at cmurray@thesunnews.com or on Twitter @TSN_ccmurray.

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