PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – Exclusively-obtained dash-cam video shows Dontrell Stephens, 20, talking on a cellphone while riding his bike on a Friday morning in September 2013. He can be seen turning onto Norma Elaine Road near Haverhill Road and Okeechobee Boulevard as PBSO deputy Adams Lin trails him.
Moments later, Stephens realizes he’s being followed. He pulls over, gets off his bike with a cellphone in his right hand and walks toward the deputy.
For approximately four seconds Stephens is out of frame only to be seen again when being shot four times.
Stephens, who is black and has a criminal record for possessing cocaine, is seen running from the bullets then dropping to the ground.
Stephens was armed with nothing but a cellphone.
The video, exclusively obtained by WPTV NewsChannel 5 and The Palm Beach Post as part of a joint investigation into police shootings, was released as part of a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed against PBSO.
A short time later, an admittedly shaken Deputy Lin is heard talking to another deputy.
“He starts backing away,” Lin explains. “I said, ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground.”
Then, the other deputy is heard saying, “I got your back man. I got your back. Hey, you hear me?”
Deputy Lin responds, “Yeah, I know.”
That day, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw went on TV to defend the shooting.
“Stop what you’re doing and comply with us,” he told reporters. “There’s nothing in the rules of engagement that says we have to put our lives in jeopardy to wait to find out what this is to get killed.”
Lin was cleared to return to work four days later. Months later, investigators from the State Attorney’s Office and PBSO ruled the shooting justified.
West Palm Beach attorney Jack Scarola is suing the sheriff and the deputy on Stephens’ behalf. Scarola says he discovered issues with the deputy’s statements after requesting and viewing all the video and audio recordings from the incident.
“There are no records of any commands ever made to Dontrell Stephens,” explained Scarola.
“The deputy’s recorded statements following the shooting were absolutely false. Internal affairs completely ignored that evidence,” he said.
Today, Stephens is paralyzed from the waist down.
While Sheriff Bradshaw was on the record the day of Stephens’ shooting, he’s not talking about the case now. The Sheriff’s policy is to not comment on pending litigation.
Stephens’ shooting reveals a pattern of problems with how deputy-involved shootings are investigated.