Dontrell Stephens, a Black man who was shot and paralyzed by a Florida deputy in 2013, has died in hospital, his attorney said. The 28-year-old’s death comes a year after he was awarded a multimillion-dollar settlement following the shooting incident. Attorney Jack Scarola told the Palm Beach Post that Stephens died Sunday from complications associated with his paralysis.
Stephens had been hospitalized for three weeks before his death. Paralyzed from the waist down from the 2013 shooting, he had been struggling with bedsores and other problems, Scarola said.
“Dontrell had a very sad and difficult life,” Scarola said. “I hope that as a consequence of the resolution of his case that he had some relief. But whatever relief he had was very short-lived.”
On September 13, 2013, Stephens was riding his bicycle through his West Palm Beach, Florida, community when he was pulled over by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Adam Lin for a bicycle infraction. Lin got out of his patrol car and within four seconds started shooting at Stephens, who had jumped off his bike and had his cellphone in his right hand.
Lin testified at a 2016 civil trial that he mistook Stephens’ cellphone for a gun and shot at him. Lin shot at Stephens four times, severing his spinal cord, and leaving him paralyzed. A federal civil jury in 2016 awarded Stephens $22 million after he sued, but Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw refused to pay, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The report added that following years of negotiations, Bradshaw offered Stephens $4.5 million. However, in June 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a $6 million settlement for Stephens.
“He might still have been here if Sheriff (Ric) Bradshaw hadn’t fought to deny him the money that he needed to get care after the shooting,” state Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, said of Stephen’s death. “The sheriff needs to do some soul-searching and acknowledge the role that he and his agency have played in this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, Lin was cleared of criminal charges. He is still employed by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and has since been promoted to sergeant.