FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff's deputy who shot and paralyzed an unarmed black man told a federal jury hearing a lawsuit Friday that his mind still sees an object that looks like a gun in the man's left hand and that he was shocked when he learned the hand was empty.
Palm Beach County Deputy Adams Lin testified that Dontrell Stephens, 22, dropped his bike after he stopped him for riding into traffic on Sept. 13, 2013. Lin said Stephens acted like he was about to run, but then started to raise his hands. Suddenly, Lin said, Stephens put his left hand behind his back. To this day, Lin said, he still sees that hand flashing forward holding a dark object he thought was a small handgun.
"I'm dead. He's got the drop on me," Lin said of his thoughts then. "I'm not that fast." He said he expected to see a muzzle flash as he drew his .40 caliber service weapon and fired four shots.
The dashboard camera in Lin's patrol car doesn't show the two seconds before the first shot, but does show Stephens holding his cell phone in his right hand before and after being shot. His left hand was empty.
"When I saw the video I was in complete shock," Lin said. "I remember it from the left but it was still in his right the whole time."
Stephens denies making any threatening moves. He's seeking more than $5 million in damages from the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office and Lin, who has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by investigators and prosecutors.
A 12-year sheriff's office veteran, Lin said he had parked at an intersection to monitor traffic when he saw Stephens pedal past and cut off a truck. Lin, who had been assigned to the community for years, said he wanted to stop Stephens for that and because he didn't recognize him. Stephens was headed home from a convenience store.
Lin said that as he caught up to Stephens, he gave a short siren burst and turned on his flashing lights and Stephens rode over some ground 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 now out of camera range.
Lin said he told Stephens to raise his hands. He said he put his right hand over his stun gun in case Stephens tried to run. 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. The video shows that as the shots were fired, Stephens turned and started to run before falling. Four seconds had elapsed since Stephens stopped his bike.
Lin said after other deputies arrived, he administered first aid until paramedics arrived, covering Stephens' wounds. He said he also looked on the ground and underneath cars for a gun, but never found one.
Both Stephens and Lin are expected to be cross-examined Monday.
For the second straight day, Stephens' testimony had to be cut short because he was in too much pain to continue. He told the jury on Friday that before the shooting, he had only had one job in his life — a four-day stint at a Chinese restaurant where he made $80. He also had spent 90 days in jail after being convicted of felony drug charges.