The Palm Beach County sheriff was ordered to pay about $25 million to an African-American man paralyzed in 2012 by his deputy, but he set up a roadblock that could prevent the shooting victim from getting the money.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw disagrees with the federal jury’s award granted in 2016 and refused to participate in paying 25-year-old Dontrell Stephens an eight-figure check unless Stephens’ attorney gets the Florida Legislature to pass a claims bill, the Palm Beach Post reported on Monday.
The $22.4 million award, plus interest, would be the largest in the county’s history. This case had been tied up in appeals for years, though that ultimately did not change the award amount.
To put the figure in context, the government settlement amounts in high profile police killings vary, ranging from the $6 million each for the shooting deaths of Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray to just $1.5 million for Michael Brown to a Minnesota town placing a value of $3 million on Philando Castile’s life.
The federal jury agreed that Deputy Adams Lin used excessive force when he shot Stephens four seconds after stopping him for riding his bicycle erratically in traffic. Stephens, who was unarmed, had fled during the encounter with Lin.
“Permanent paralysis is a grossly disproportionate penalty,” Stephens’ attorney Jack Scarola wrote in a letter to the sheriff. “No matter what the degree of culpability may be in causing Dontrell’s paralysis, there is no doubt that he is the tragic victim of a mistake.”
U.S. Magistrate Barry Seltzer signed an order last week authorizing Bradshaw to pay Stephens $200,000, which is the maximum that the department could pay for its negligence. The sheriff agreed to make that payment but won’t lift a finger to request the state to pay out the balance of the award.