A 23-year-old Florida man who was paralyzed from the waist down in a September 2013 shooting by a police officer has been arrested on a series of drugs charges.
Dontrell Stephens was awarded compensation of $22.4 million in a federal lawsuit in February after a court found that a Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office deputy used excessive force in the 2013 incident, Daily Mail reported.
Officer Adams Lin shot Stephens four times and alleged he saw the man holding a weapon in his hand. Three bullets struck Stephens in the spine.
Lin’s dashcam proved Stephens only had a broken cellphone in his hand.
In the Oct. 20 incident, officers detained Stephens and charged him with selling marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Shortly afterwards, the sheriff’s office posted his mugshot and arrest sheet on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
“If you sell drugs near a DAY CARE CENTER you are going to get #BUSTED,” the office wrote, according to the SunSentinel.
Jack Scarola, Stephens’ attorney, suggested the announcement of the arrest on Facebook was unusual.
He added that his client had received none of his settlement because of a legal appeal.
“And then the moment he falls off the ledge, if in fact he has fallen off the ledge, the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office is there to catch him,” Scarola added.
Scarola said the Social Security check Stephens lived off each month left him with insufficient funds to buy food and forced him to rely on friends.
The attorney also explained Stephens’ injuries meant he was unable to work. He still owes $1.5 million in medical costs related to the shooting.
“Just as surely as if they had planted drugs on Dontrell Stephens, he has been entrapped,” alleged Scarola. “There is no excuse for engaging in illegal drug trade, but any reasonable look at Dontrell's desperate circumstances would show why he may have been led to do things he otherwise would have never done.”
A conviction for a drug-related offense could further complicate Stephens’ situation.
“I am sure that if Dontrell were to ultimately be convicted of some drug offense, the sheriff's office would attempt to use that to resist passage of the claims bill,” he told the SunSentinel.
Scarola was referring to the bill that has to be passed by the state legislature to finalize the payout of the compensation to Stephens. Any settlement of more than $200,000 must be approved in this way.