Lawsuit filed after Myrtle Beach man paralyzed during execution of warrant

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – A man who was shot while officers attempted to serve a search warrant in April at a Myrtle Beach apartment has filed a federal lawsuit against officials and officers involved in the raid that left him permanently paralyzed.

The incident happened around 3:10 p.m. April 16, 2015 on Withers Swash Drive and involved an assembled team of at least 12 heavily armed agents to execute the drug charge and search warrants, according to a complaint filed by Jonathan David McCoy, attorney for Julian Ray Betton.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division stated April 17, the day following the shooting, that Julian Ray Betton, 30-years-old at the time of the incident, was shot during the execution of the warrants. Officials told News13 that same day that officers “returned fire” from the suspect they were trying to arrest.

Agents were attempting to serve the warrants after Betton reportedly sold a small amount of marijuana to a confidential informant on two occasions. The lawsuit documents that “in early 2015, Defendant Chad Guess, a member of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Task Force in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, twice gave a confidential informant $100 to purchase marijuana from Plaintiff Julian Ray Betton. On each occasion, the confidential informant reported that she used the money to purchase a small quantity of marijuana from Betton.”

“Officers of the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit responded to 602 Withers Swash Drive in reference the execution of a narcotics warrant,” stated Lt. Joey Crosby with Myrtle Beach Police. “Upon execution of the warrant an officer was involved in a shooting with the occupants of the apartment.”

Immediately following the incident, 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson told News13 he believes his officer acted in self defense.

“The officer returned fire. Of course it’s up to SLED to talk to everybody and get everybody’s side of it, but my understanding is that the officer returned fire,” said Richardson.

In the 35 page complaint filed by Betton’s attorney on Tuesday, however, McCoy documents that the arresting agents “opened fire only seconds after they entered the apartment. They shot at least 57 bullets, nine of which hit Betton.”

Betton was transported to an area hospital for treatment, according to Myrtle Beach Police.

“Betton’s extensive injuries left him in a coma for six weeks. Doctors removed portions of his gallbladder, colon, bowel, and rectum. They inserted a metal rod in his left leg. His spine was severely damaged, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down,” reports McCoy.

The officers involved in the execution of the search warrant were Frank Waddell of Coastal Carolina University Police, Chris Dennis of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office and Officer David Belue of Myrtle Beach Police, SLED said.

As of the April 16 incident, Officer Belue was a Patrolman First Class assigned to the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit and had been employed with the Myrtle Beach Police Department since 2007 and was placed on modified duty, according to Lt. Crosby. Waddell has been with CCU since November 2013 and was placed on administrative leave following the incident, university officials said.

Those officers, in addition to Bill Knowles, then Commander of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit Task Force, 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson, Dean Bishop and Chad Guess are all names as defendants in the lawsuit.

Solicitor Richardson reported in April that officers of the Drug Enforcement Unit are not given body cams. SLED officials said the day following the shooting that there is no body cam video of the incident.

Video from Betton’s home surveillance system has since been released. The video shows agents forcing a man that had presumably just left the apartment to the ground. One agent can then be seen opening the screen door and another agent forces his way into the residence. There is no evidence of any agent knocking on the door before forcing entry.

If you are reading this story on the News13 app, view the video here.

“[Agents] wore no visible insignia identifying them as law enforcement officers. They stormed Betton’s home, ramming down his unlocked front door and entering without knocking or announcing themselves as law enforcement officers, in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” as written in McCoy’s lawsuit.

Part of McCoy’s complaint states that Betton was walking out of the restroom in his apartment when he walked into his living room to find “three unidentified men carrying assault rifles in his living room. He did not know who the intruders were. Defendants opened fire only seconds after they entered the apartment.”

The lawsuit seeks the following on Betton’s behalf:

  • Compensatory damages from Defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount to be determined at trial
  • Punitive damages from Defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount to be determined at trial
  • Special damages from Defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount to be determined at trial
  • Reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses from Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1988
  • Costs of court and interest as allowed by law
  • A trial by jury on all contested issues of fact
  • Such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper

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