PBSO deputy who shot, paralyzed unarmed bicyclist Dontrell Stephens given promotion

Adams Lin, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy who was captured on video shooting an unarmed bicyclist in 2013, was recently promoted to sergeant.

He also has a new assignment: field training, where he works with new recruits.

The promotion comes two years after he shot and paralyzed 20-year-old Dontrell Stephens, four seconds after stopping the bicyclist and getting out of his patrol car.

Lin said Stephens didn’t comply with orders to raise his hands and reached into his back waistband, prompting him to shoot. Stephens had a cell phone in his hands. He was paralyzed from the waist down.

Most of the incident was captured on video. When The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 aired it in May, it quickly went viral, getting the attention of national media.

PBSO cleared Lin of any wrongdoing in the incident.

Before being promoted, Lin was assigned to community policing. He was the department’s 2010-11 Community Policing Deputy of the Year.

Stephens has sued Lin and PBSO in federal court.

Juvenile Justice agency to county commissioners: We’re working on reported problems at local juvvie center

Christina Daly didn’t have to pen letters to each of the Palm Beach County Commissioners about conditions at the local juvenile detention center, but the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice chief’s two page missive might allay concerns.

“I can assure you this department does not tolerate conduct or an environment that puts youth at risk,” DJJ Secretary Christina Daly wrote commissioners on Monday.

And Daly ticked off a laundry list of efforts: an unannounced visit by both the Inspector General and the head of the agency’s Bureau of Inspections, a fresh round of surveys of teenage boys housed there, a facilities inspection, an assessment of how staffers are trained in the use of force and, of course, the request that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement look into the facility.

Youth Services International, the Sarasota-based company operating the center under contract to DJJ, isn’t mentioned in the letter.

But it’s very much in the forefront of criticism. Legal advocates, including lawyers for teenagers housed in YSI facilities, have slammed YSI for several years. Only last year, a Florida Senate subcommittee took testimony into conditions at a Broward center run by the company.

YSI denied allegations of maltreatment and DJJ’s inspector general also found nothing to report.

None of that seems to have factored into Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana’s desire to see the county break its $1-a-year lease with DJJ for the center property and send the agency, and its contractor, packing.

Shelley Vana, paying a second visit to the juvenile center.
Shelley Vana, paying a follow-up visit to the juvenile center.

Rather, it was what Vana found in April when she paid a surprise visit to the 118-bed facility.

Then, this month, two teens were injured; one was hospitalized. In both cases, DJJ said, another teenager was responsible for the injuries- not a staffer.

But staffers have had problems, too, including two who faced misdemeanor criminal charges after arranging a fight between teenagers there.

 

 

Lease could keep kids’ lockup here, despite criticism of conditions

Palm Beach County Juvenile Correctional Facility
Palm Beach County Juvenile Correctional Facility

Severing the Department of Juvenile Justice’s lease for a kid’s lockup here may be easier said than done.

Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana would like nothing better than to see DJJ and the private company it hired to run a juvenile detention center just west of the Fairgrounds close up and go home.

Vana, wetter than a mad hen over conditions at the juvie jail, this week told County Administrator Bob Weisman to look for a way out of its contract with the state agency.

It’s the county’s land that the Palm Beach County Juvenile Correctional Facility sits on. DJJ leases it for $1 a year.

Weisman took a first look at the 1990s-era lease and wrote to the legal department that, “It seems to say that we cannot terminate the lease unless the termination is in accordance with law, but yet it doesn’t seem to provide a way that it could be in accordance with law, but then it says that if a court rules the termination was illegal, that we will pay DJJ for the value of the facility.”

“Makes no sense to me.”

Meanwhile, DJJ has scrambled to keep up with criticism of the vendor actually running the show: Sarasota-based Youth Services International.

The state agency stepped up monitoring and it appears the teenagers will get milk or juice with a snack, not water. YSI ordered parts for broken plumbing and at least some kids got new shoes and socks.

Then, last month, in an out-of-left-field move, DJJ asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review what was going on at the facility, which holds 118 teenage boys, most of them in pretty serious trouble with the law.

YSI has been dogged by allegations of maltreatment for years. Critics cite a string of scandals linked to the company and its predecessor, including the 1999 collapse of a juvenile jail contract in Pahokee. And for years, company officials have insisted any bad employees have been fired and reforms adopted.

The problems just keep coming, though. Things seemed to come to a head last year, when a Florida Senate subcommittee on criminal justice agreed to hear testimony about a troubled YSI-run Broward center and DJJ canceled a contract with YSI for another center in North Florida.

But even as the troubles mount, so do the deals: According to DJJ records, YSI still holds more than $100 million in contracts to run Florida juvenile facilities.

“Loxahatchee Lager”? Beer and nature pair up in new project

Northern Palm Beach County’s wild scenery is the inspiration behind a project by a local craft brewer to blend beer and nature.

Twisted Trunk Brewing Company in Palm Beach Gardens this summer plans to roll out a custom beer in honor of natural areas such as the Loxahatchee Slough, Pine Glades and Cypress Creek.

A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)
A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)

“We’re leaning toward calling it ‘Loxahatchee Lager,’’’ said Fran Andrewlevich, brewmaster at Twisted Trunk, a subsidiary of Tequesta Brewing Co.

The plan is to donate a share of the proceeds from the sale of the beer to Palm Beach County’s department of Environmental Resources Management, which would use the money to help maintain the county’s natural areas.

“A lot of our customers hike and kayak in the natural areas. We just want to raise some awareness and make great beer,’’ Andrewlevich said.

One of those customers is Benji Studt, an environmental analyst with ERM who leads periodic photography hikes through the natural areas.

Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area
Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area

Andrewlevich said he and his partners got inspired to brew the special lager after listening to Studt sit at the bar describing the scenery.

“We plan on doing a beer that infuses some of the natural ingredients that are out there,’’ Andrewlevich said.

“Normally we do fruits and spices. Out there, there’s hibiscus, mulberry, natural blueberries. We’d like to tie those into the beer.’’yellowwildflower

A roll-out event, including a presentation by ERM, will be held sometime in July at Twisted Trunk.

“We’re thrilled they’re choosing to support local land conservation and our natural areas program,’’ Studt said.

“There are so many really great recreational opportunities out in the natural areas that are free to visitors.

“Right now they’re very underutilized. Getting word out to the public about these eco-treasures in our back yards is really what we’re excited about.’’

 

Video: PBSO deputy describes shooting that left Dontrell Stephens paralyzed

A video of a PBSO deputy shooting an unarmed man within four seconds of stopping him in 2013 captured national attention last week.

Now a newly obtained video shows Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputy Adams Lin describing what caused him to shoot.

In the video, Lin says that Dontrell Stephens turned his body and reached toward his waistband as if he was going for a gun.

He didn’t have a gun; it was a cell phone that was in his right hand during the four-second encounter.

The video also shows how Lin, who was assigned to a community-oriented policing job, was dressed. Attorney Jack Scarola, who is representing Stephens in a federal lawsuit against PBSO, said Lin was “dressed for war,” carrying 76 rounds of ammunition.

He was dressed differently from most uniformed PBSO deputies, with a tactical vest carrying his ammunition and Taser. Those items are often carried on a belt.

Scarola released the video to the media on Friday.

Video of Stephens’ shooting came to light last week, when The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 published online the results of a yearlong investigation into police shootings. The reporting revealed that one in every four people shot at by deputies were unarmed, and one in every three people are black. Stephens is black. Lin is Asian.

In the wake of the investigation, Palm Beach County commissioner Priscilla Taylor called for independent investigations and a community symposium.

Disturbed by pattern of PBSO shootings, Commissioner Priscilla Taylor calls for independent review, community symposium

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said she is organizing a symposium of law enforcement officials and community leaders to find ways to reduce the “unnecessary” rate of shootings of unarmed civilians.

IMG_1149Taylor said she was spurred into hosting the symposium after reading about disturbing patterns of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies in a joint investigation between The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5.

“From reading your article and seeing it on TV, I am going to convene a symposium to bring law enforcement to the table as well as people to the community. It is a serious issue and we don’t want it to fester here in Palm Beach County what is going on in the rest of the county,’’ Taylor said Friday afternoon.

Taylor also called for an independent review board to study some of the findings reported by the news organizations, including:

  • In roughly one of every four shootings, Palm Beach County deputies fired at unarmed suspects. The Department of Justice has found fault with departments who shot at unarmed suspects less frequently.
  • Deputies disproportionately shot at young black men, a third of whom were unarmed.
  • Non-deadly force options, such as Tasers or batons, were seldom used prior to shooting.
  • PBSO rarely found fault with a deputy’s decision to shoot, sometimes basing its decisions on cursory or incomplete investigations.

20120607_met_screengrabTaylor said she was particularly disturbed by a video showing a deputy stopping an unarmed black man who was riding a bike, then shooting him 4 seconds later as the man was running away from the deputy.

“It’s unnecessary and it’s just like what happening across the country,’’ she said. “Really, I think they need an outside citizen’s review board.’’

Taylor said the symposium will be held in May or June at the Palm Beach County Government Center in downtown West Palm Beach. She said the Delray Beach police department already told her it will send a high-ranking representative.

Her staff plans to send out formal invitations on Monday, including one to Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.

“Hopefully the sheriff himself will come,’’ she said. “We have avoided the conversation. I think we need to talk about.’’

Asked what she hopes the symposium will accomplish, Taylor said: “I hope the discussion will bring out some information that can be shared. It’s important for people in those positions to really hear what the community is saying and maybe come up with some idea to try to address that.’’

Read more about this investigation here: mypalmbeachpost.com/policeshootings