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It’s been nearly two years since Dontrell Stephens was shot and paralyzed by a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy.
But he’s only been out of physical rehabilitation for about a month and a half, and now his family is asking for help finding the wheelchair-bound 22-year-old permanent housing.
Stephens’ cousin, Karen, created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money. As of Tuesday evening, it had collected $3,325 toward its modest $5,000 goal.
“He was supposed to find a place but it’s very difficult when he doesn’t have any income,” Karen Stephens said Tuesday. “He really is, essentially, homeless.”
Dontrell Stephens was shot by Deputy Adams Lin in September 2013 after he was stopped while riding his bike.
The incident, which was partially captured on video, showed that Lin shot him four seconds after stopping him. Lin said he thought Stephens was reaching toward his waistband as if he had a gun.
Stephens was unarmed, holding only a cell phone. Lin’s four bullets left him paralyzed from the waist down, and video from the incident received national attention this year.
Lin was cleared in the shooting and was recently promoted to sergeant.
Stephens went to a physical rehabilitation center near Orlando after his release from the hospital. Since he left rehab, he’s been living in an extended stay hotel in West Palm Beach, Karen Stephens said.
His lawyer, Jack Scarola, confirmed Dontrell Stephens’ situation. He said that Stephens was supposed move into an apartment with his mother but his mother never got an apartment.
Although Stephens and Scarola are suing PBSO in federal court, Scarola said legal ethics forbid him from paying his client’s rent.
“We are not in a position to provide him the kind of help he needs, and I wish we could,” Scarola said. “He is one of those people who has most definitely fallen through the cracks.”
Karen Stephens said her cousin has not yet been able to find a job but is receiving a small amount of money for his disability from the Social Security Administration. It’s not enough for him to live on, she and Scarola said.
She’s collecting just $5,000 to cover a few months of rent for Dontrell, she said. Other family members are trying to help as they can.
“No one can do everything all the time (for him),” she said. “People try to help as they can. It’s just a handful of us in the family that are able to do it.”
Stephens’ stint in rehab cost “a few hundred thousand dollars,” Scarola said, but he hasn’t had to pay for it yet.
“They agreed to provide rehab services for Dontrell, with the understanding they would be paid out of the litigation,” he said of the facility.
Despite his situation, Scarola said Stephens is doing well, thanks to the support of his family.