Regardless of marijuana being legal for recreational purposes in four states—with several others expected to follow suit in 2016—drug enforcement officers continues to terrorize neighborhoods stuck in prohibitionary times.
South Carolina resident Julian Betton, one of the latest calamities of the domestic drug war, understands this all too well. Earlier this year, a SWAT team kicked down the door to his Myrtle Beach apartment and showered him with bullets as he emerged from the bathroom. Betton was shot at least 9 times, which by all accounts should have put him in an early grave, but instead the 30-year-old was hospitalized only to wake up from a coma several weeks later paralyzed from the waste down.
The house “looked like South Central,” Betton’s mother said, explaining the aftermath of the raid.
According to a report from Myrtle Beach Online, Betton was home playing video games in the moments leading up to the raid. He recalls pushing the pause button on his Xbox to use the bathroom, never once hearing any noise to serve as a warning that a number of heavily armed officers were waiting for him in the other room. All he remembers is seeing smoke and several faceless figures moving around in his apartment… and then, they began to shoot.
“I’m dead,” he said. “That was my last thought.”
After Betton was carted off to the hospital, where he was expected to die, a search of his home uncovered around $970, eight ounces of weed and two firearms. Police say they obtained a search warrant for the residence based on information obtained from a confidential informant.
Meanwhile, doctors were busy pulling bullets out of Betton’s stomach, legs and arms—some of which struck major organs. He would lay in a coma for the next six weeks.
Not anticipating Betton’s survival, police attempted to cover up their violent rampage by filing a false report asserting that the drug dealer was the first to open fire. The drug unit maintained their story for more than a month but was later forced to recant because not only was Betton still alive, he was awake and talking.
In a series of interviews, Betton repeatedly told investigators that he never once discharged a weapon. Last Friday, an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division determined that Betton was telling the truth, finding no evidence to suggest he ever shot at police. Still, none of the officers involved in Betton’s attempted murder will face charges because the state’s leading prosecutor claims they were justified in their actions.
“The officers of the entry team all stated that almost immediately after entering the apartment Mr. Bretton (sic) appeared and confronted the officers by pointing the handgun at them,” Kevin Brackett, the prosecutor who reviewed the cased, explained in a statement. “He did not fire his weapon but the fact that he did not is of no consequence. The officers were entitled to defend themselves from the moment he presented a danger to their lives by presenting his weapon.”
After the report was made public, Jimmy Richardson, commanding officer of the drug unit, said his men might have been confused and only “thought they were fired upon.”
While drug agents in South Carolina may be somewhat befuddled over what it actually means to be shot at, Betton is not likely to ever forget. The injuries he sustained will force him to live out the rest of his life without the use of his legs—not to mention the prison time he could serve after being slapped with three felony drug charges.
Most would agree that this is an extremely harsh price to pay for selling a substance that the majority of Americans believe should be made legal at the federal level. After all, there are no pardons from death or paralysis.