Man shot by Florida deputy concedes his testimony changed
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – A 22-year-old man conceded Monday that his testimony has changed about where on his body he was shot by a sheriff’s deputy and left paralyzed, and the deputy stood by his decision.
Dontrelle Stephens told a federal jury under cross-examination that he testified during a 2014 deposition that he was shot in the chest by Palm Beach County Deputy Adams Lin in September 2013. But Stephens said he now believes he was shot in the back because of a scar there, of which he became aware only recently. He also was shot in the right arm and thumb. He was unarmed.
“I assumed I had been shot in the chest, but when my brother showed me a picture, I have a scar there,” Stephens said from his wheelchair during cross-examination by Lin attorney Summer Barranco. Stephens concluded his testimony Monday. It was spread out over three days because of pain he said was caused by his injuries.
Responding to a question from a juror, Stephens said that when he was shot, he was not on probation or parole for an earlier felony cocaine possession conviction. He served 90 days in jail.
Stephens is suing Lin and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, alleging his civil rights were violated. He’s seeking more than $5 million to cover medical treatment and future care.
The case is one of several nationwide that have sparked debate about the shooting of unarmed black males by law enforcement officers. Federal Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer has instructed jurors that they are to consider only the specific circumstances of Stephens’ shooting and no other.
During cross-examination, Lin said he would still shoot Stephens given the same circumstances. Lin said Stephens’ actions made him believe he was drawing a gun and about to shoot him.
Lin, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, has said he stopped Stephens for riding his bicycle into traffic and because he didn’t recognize him from the neighborhood.
Video from the patrol car’s dashboard camera shows that Stephens has his cellphone in his right hand as he pedals in front of Lin.
Lin told the jury Monday that he might have missed the cellphone because, unlike the video camera, he was turning his head and blinking as he drove. He also said he thought Stephens might drop his bike and run, so he was looking beyond him for obstacles such as cars and fences and for house addresses so he could radio for backup.
As Lin caught up to Stephens, he gave a short siren burst and turned on his lights. Stephens rode into a duplex parking lot. Lin said – and the video confirms – that Stephens looked back, then continued forward about 10 feet before jumping off the bike. Lin said he thought Stephens was about to run, so he jumped from his car to begin chasing him. Instead, Stephens walked between two parked cars toward where Lin had moved. Both were then out of camera range.
Lin said he stayed behind the trunk of the forward car because he didn’t want to get caught in a “fatal funnel” with nowhere to duck if Stephens drew a gun.
Lin testified earlier that he told Stephens to raise his hands. He said he put his right hand over his stun gun. He said Stephens started to raise his hands, took a small step back with his left foot and then put his left hand behind his back. He said Stephens flashed the hand forward, pointing a dark object at him that looked like a small handgun. Lin said he feared for his life as he fired four shots from his .40 caliber service weapon.
The video shows that as the shots were fired, Stephens turned and started to run before falling. His cellphone remained in his right hand. Four seconds had elapsed since Stephens stopped his bike.