Dontrell Stephens was riding his bike back to a friend's house in a Florida neighborhood in 2013 when an officer stopped him. The officer claimed that Stephens rode into traffic. Stephens dropped his bike, and within seconds the officer opened fire, paralyzing the 22-year-old, who police would later admit was not armed.
On Wednesday, a federal jury awarded Stephens $23.1 million, finding that Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Sgt. Adams Lin violated Stephens’ civil rights, the Associated Press reports.
The jury awarded Stephens some $6 million for his medical expenses and $17.1 million for pain and suffering. However, AP reports, Florida lawmakers still have to approve the large settlement.
In September 2013, Lin stopped Stephens, saying that he had ridden his bike into traffic. Lin later testified that he didn't recognize Stephens from the neighborhood and said he shot him four times because he believed that Stephens had reached for something in his waistband. Stephens told the jury that he was shot as he was raising his hands. He added that his left hand had been empty and that he was only holding his cellphone in his right hand when Lin opened fire.
The six-woman, two-man jury ruled after three-and-a-half hours of deliberation.
Stephens initially sought some $5 million to cover his future medical expenses, but his attorney Darryl Lewis noted that the amount was too small, since his projected care over his lifetime could cost as much as $6 million. In his closing arguments, Lewis added that his client should get an additional $18 million for his pain and suffering. The jury agreed, rejecting "Lin’s claim that he had made an 'objectively reasonable mistake' when he shot Stephens," AP reports.
AP added that an appeal of the ruling is expected.
Lin, 38, and a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting and, according to AP, was promoted to sergeant.
Read more at the Associated Press.