Black Man Paralyzed By Florida Cop Awarded $23M, But Also Demands Apology

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Dontrell Stephens(C), with his attorney Jack Scarola (R), at a press conference Thursday February 11, 2016 in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Dontrell Stephens (C), with his attorney Jack Scarola (R), at a press conference Thursday February 11, 2016 in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

A Black man who received $23 million for being paralyzed by a police shooting wants one more thing: an apology from the officer who shot him.

According to an Associated Press story, Dontrell Stephens said he has forgiven Palm Beach County Sgt. Adams Lin, who shot him during a 2013 encounter. But, he believes he is owed an apology.

“You have to forgive people. You can’t hold a grudge against someone for what they did, but I would like an apology,” Stephens said.

Lin shot Stephens after he stopped his bicycle from riding into traffic. Lin claimed Stephens was reaching for a gun with his left hand. However, dash cam video showed Stephen’s left hand was empty.

A jury took 3.5 hours to side with Stephens and awarded him $23 million in damages during a federal civil trial that ended on Feb. 3. An expert who testified in the trial said Stephens’ medical bills have already exceeded $2 million, and he would likely need $4 million in care over his lifespan, said The AP. The jury also awarded him $17.1 million “for pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement and other items.”

Jack Scarola, one of Stephens’ attorneys, told The Palm Beach Post Stephens needs the money to keep him alive.

“The sentence Dontrell Stephens received is a life sentence to be imprisoned in that wheelchair,” Scarola said. “There’s a very real chance his life sentence will be converted into a death sentence if he doesn’t receive the care we all as a society are obligated to provide for him.”

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office said they plan to appeal the verdict which they described as “shocking and disappointing.”

If the verdict is upheld on appeal, under Florida law, Stephens could only receive $200,000 from Palm Beach County, unless the Florida legislature approves granting him more, according to The AP.

Darryl Lewis, a member of the legal team representing Stephens, told The AP they hope public attention to the case would force the legislature to act. However, Stephens could wait years for his money and not receive the exact amount awarded by the jury.

Lewis said the Florida legislature needs to do the right thing and pay Stephens, who was paralyzed by a government employee.

“The jury has spoken,” said Lewis. “To protect this citizen, all the legislature needs to do is simply validate this verdict.”

Stephens added he was glad the jury believed his testimony.

“I was glad the jury got to hear my testimony and knew I was telling the truth,” he said during a press conference. “It was an emotional feeling. I was very proud of the jury and to be able to know [that they recognized] I had spoken the truth.”

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