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[00:00:00]

Hi, it's Phoebe. Before we start, I have a quick favor to ask. We're conducting our annual listener survey and we'd be grateful if you would take just a moment to answer some questions about how we're doing. Visit survey dot org slash criminal. You can also answer questions about the other radio topia podcasts you listen to and your input will really help us out. Visit, survey pirogues criminal. Thanks very much. Here's the show. This episode contains descriptions of violence.

[00:00:34]

Please use discretion. In 2014, a woman was pulled over by Myrtle Beach Police in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The woman was black and the police said they pulled her over because of a taillight. They found a small amount of marijuana in her car and she was given the option to avoid charges if she told them where she got the marijuana, as one officer later put it. She was asked, quote, who she knows. She says she did know someone, but she didn't know his full name, she only knew him as Jewelz.

[00:01:12]

My name is Julien Batten and right now I'm in Conway, South Carolina.

[00:01:18]

The police drove the woman to Julian Patton's apartment. They wired her with a hidden video camera, an audio recorder, and then they gave her 100 dollars and told to arrest Julian Battan to sell her marijuana. Julian is black. And in 2015, he was 30 years old.

[00:01:37]

It was a friend of my girlfriend at the time, girlfriend it was. She had some problems after her father had died. So she had a medical discharge from the military and she had asked me for some. And I gave her something first and they told her to come back and buy something from me.

[00:01:54]

So that's what she did.

[00:01:56]

The woman came out with what police recorded as approximately seven grams of marijuana. She'd done what the officers asked her to do, but something had gone wrong with the video recording. So they waited a few weeks, gave her 100 more dollars and drove her back to Julian Battens house.

[00:02:15]

Well, I didn't expect her to come back and buy something that was kind of strange that she came back and one of the boys was like, OK, we're here. But that's not. I they saying something is going to become a habit. She knew what I would do it for her because I knew her situation. I don't know. I think I think she was pretty much more scared than anything when the police stopped her and told her that if they if she didn't give something, if she didn't give them, the person gave it to her that she was going to go to jail and lose her military benefits.

[00:02:48]

On the second visit, the woman thought approximately eight grams and there was a video recording. This gave officers from the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit probable cause to get a search warrant for Julian Battens apartment. The 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit pulls together officers from multiple police departments across Orie and Georgetown counties in South Carolina, its stated intention is to create a multi jurisdictional multiagency task force to address major drug enterprises.

[00:03:24]

When you look at the operational plan, the drug enforcement unit created for their search of Julian Battens apartment, the first thing you see is their insignia. It's a large drawing of a skull and crossbones in front of a marijuana leaf. There's also a sword and a lightning bolt underneath that, a sort of motto serving our community one dealer at a time. I'm Phoebe Judge. This is criminal.

[00:04:02]

Julian Batten lived in a building with four apartments in Myrtle Beach on April 16th, 2015, just before three o'clock in the afternoon, his next door neighbor, Santos Garcia, was outside working on his moped.

[00:04:17]

Julian Benton was inside playing video games. Julian paused the game to go to the bathroom.

[00:04:25]

And upon coming out of my bathroom, I hear a loud boom and I'm thinking my name, my upstairs neighborhood drop something that that's all I heard was it was OK, what are you doing upstairs? It was kind of a thought. But as I'm looking up, getting ready to say that my peripheral I see objects coming at me in my living room. So I'm trying to process that. But I stepped back and reached for my gun because it was terrifying.

[00:04:48]

It was like, what the hell is this? And I mean, it was just a reflex to me reaching for my first first thing, the defense.

[00:04:57]

Did you hear a knock? Did they announce themselves?

[00:05:00]

No. No, not at all. No.

[00:05:05]

The next door neighbor, Cintas Garcia, said that he'd been standing there and all of a sudden several cars appeared. He said, quote, A white car pulled up into my front yard right in front of me. One of the men who got out of it pointed a rifle directly at me. I was told to get down and I immediately did. I was five feet from Julian's front porch and door without stopping. Several of the men who had just arrived immediately went up into Julian's front porch and bashed in his door.

[00:05:38]

None of the men announced that they were police. No one knocked on his door. No one waited any period of time for him to come to the door. And then Santurce Garcia said, within two seconds of the men bashing in Julian's door, I heard multiple gunshots. That sounded like automatic weapons.

[00:05:59]

I remember I remember getting hit the first shot that hit me because I didn't hear the shot. I felt it and it was right up under my right arm, like maybe an inch or two away from my from my chest, my nipple match, my right side of my chest. And that's. It felt like more of like somebody had just punched me real hard. And I thought it was like it was it happened so fast, it was just like, OK, and I knew intuitively I was like, OK, you're dead.

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That's just but that was the last thought I had of there was like you did.

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And I woke up in a coma. Six weeks later.

[00:06:40]

According to the Drug Enforcement Unit's operational plans, 10 officers were assigned to go to Julian Battens apartment to execute the search warrant. An officer named Chad Guess is listed as the case agent. Three of the officers at the apartment that day shot Julian Batton, Frank Waddell, Chris Dennis and David Bulu. They fired an estimated 29 times and nine bullets hit Julian. Julian says he never fired his gun. Here's how Officer David Bulu described what happened. He's speaking to a lieutenant with the Office of Professional Standards at the Myrtle Beach Police Department.

[00:07:21]

So I grabbed the screen door and pulled it open for the not for the person to knock and announce and utilize the ramp. So I pulled the screen door and out of habit, I announced police search warrant guys. Other guys started to stack up on the porch in a like kind of like formation, preparing to enter Chad. Guess he he had the ram actually in his hands. He was going to be the person to ram the door by force with no way if there was no answer at the door.

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So he comes up to the top of the porch, goes up to the front door and he knocks and announces police search warrant.

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There's no answer. He hits the door with the ram. The door comes open. It swings in. Two agents went in front of me into the house and those agents were Frank Wartell and Chris Dennis. And then I was the third person through the door. And so we were we ended up one, two, three in a row, all side by side, OK? And as soon as I planted my feet inside the door, I know I remember when Kristen is being first and he announced at least once, if not twice, police, search warrant, police search warrant.

[00:08:42]

And about that time I stepped my feet into the door. As soon as I planted my feet, I saw a black male who I could identify from the pictures we saw of him earlier as Julian, Mr. Burton turned a corner from a bedroom probably about eight feet in front of us, eight, ten feet in front of us with a gun handgun. It was black and color appeared to be like a large caliber semi automatic weapon was fully extended. I remember he was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans.

[00:09:16]

His handgun was fully extended, his arm was fully extended out, and he fired around in our direction into the center of the three of us. He fired one round or more. I don't know. I distinctly remember one round. But I could tell you if you fired more not OK. So you saw him with his weapon arm extended. He fired around what took place at that point. Once that happened, my first instinct was we're being shot at.

[00:09:54]

And so I was I had an AR 15 that was issued to the drug enforcement unit. I put in my weapon in its direction and fired several rounds. I don't know how many, but just several. And I noticed in my peripheral, Chris Dennis and Frank Wardell were were falling down my mind. In my mind, I thought that Chris Dennis was shot and he was going down. He went directly backwards. But he was I could see he was firing his weapon out of my peripheral also.

[00:10:35]

OK, once they hit the floor, the firing stopped. I stopped. I saw Julian, um, I guess you'd say he kind of dropped the gun at his feet, took a couple of steps backwards and kind of fell back into the hallway. At that point, I knew he had been hit. I couldn't see any blood or anything, but I knew he'd been struck. We still thought that Chris Dennis was hit. I checked on him briefly.

[00:11:06]

He said he was OK. I saw Frank Waddell. He'd also fall into the ground. He had gotten back up. And we both you know, I said, hey, we've got to move forward. We don't know if the rest of the house is clear. Frank got up. I moved forward, Frank moved forward covering the bad guy or Mr Button, once we got to him, Frank stood over the handgun. It was now at his feet and Julian was laid, laid out on his back.

[00:11:39]

He was awake and alert and screaming. Some of the officers were wearing body cameras, but it appears they didn't turn them on until after Julian Beaton had been shot down with one gunshot wound.

[00:11:56]

Care for one suspect with a gunshot wound?

[00:11:59]

When you watch the body camera footage, you can see Julian on the floor, obviously in terrible pain. They handcuff him. He calls the officers, sir, they call him. But at one point he says, please don't hurt me anymore. They put a tourniquet on his leg and then you see paramedics take over. Julian Batten was taken to Grand Strand Medical Center, where doctors performed multiple surgeries. He was put into a medically induced coma for six weeks.

[00:12:30]

When he woke up, he couldn't feel his legs.

[00:12:33]

I remember waking up a few different times and seeing my mom, my hospital at my bedside and was like, OK, and kind of dozing off on. And I was there when I first started getting a memory back to what happened. It was a sheriff officer next to my bed telling me that I had a shootout with the police and me and him is arguing cause I'm like, dude, I'm black. I don't know. I'm not shooting at the police.

[00:12:56]

Tell me what really happened. And then they told me what they had was a panic because I didn't know. It was like I had lost a month and a half, you know, the last time I know it was April I was waking up is is June, huh? So what happened to that space in there? Six weeks.

[00:13:25]

I got a phone call from a friend. They got a phone call from a girl that lived above how I first heard about it. And what did you hear? I heard the. It was a shoot out that he got in a shootout or something with police. What I initially heard, this is Julian Benton's friend, Reggie Mitchell. He says that when he heard that Julian was in the hospital, he went to see him right away and was told he wasn't allowed in the room.

[00:13:56]

I got the you know, the reports from the news where they said that he shot at cops or something like that. And I just knew that in some way. So my first thing was Kazami. That was my first move.

[00:14:12]

Johnny McCoy is a lawyer and Reggie Mitchell's old friend. They both grew up in Myrtle Beach. They played football together.

[00:14:19]

As soon as I heard, as soon as I heard the news that he shot at the police and knew that wasn't right. I immediately called John. He called me one day and he says, look, man, one of my buddies, this guy who I recorded music with, he's in the hospital. He's in a coma. And I said, well, what what happened? He said, well, the police shot him. And I said in Myrtle Beach said, yeah, the police shot.

[00:14:44]

And I said, well, what did they say he did?

[00:14:48]

He said, I don't know. I don't know what they say he did. I know they're saying that he shot them first. And then I asked Reggie one question. What did they accuse him of having in the house? And he said, All I know is Julieann only messes with weed. And I trusted Reggie. Right. Then I said, well, there's no way that this guy had a shootout with the cops over with. So I knew that it was going to be hell, try to get the truth out in this case, but because it was marijuana, I knew I knew this young man was not shooting the police over marijuana.

[00:15:24]

When Johnny McCoy went to Julian Burton's hospital room for the first time, he was told he couldn't see Julian because they said he was a restricted patient. Julian Burton was technically in police custody in his hospital bed. Johnny McCoy says it took some negotiation, but he was eventually allowed to go in and see Julian. That's when he learned the extent of Julian's injuries.

[00:15:50]

He had his gallbladder removed, his spleen removed. He's paralyzed from the waist down. He had a large part of his small intestine removed. Uh, he has had. I can't even count the amount of surgeries that this young man has had because his stomach is where he took the bulk of the bullets, or that's where the bulk of the surgery happened. He also had a nasty bullet wound in his leg. That's why his legs I mean, to this day there, he's working on them, but there's very little there.

[00:16:25]

But, yeah, it was the trache to the trache tube. I never I had never interacted with anybody with a tracheotomy tube. And it was and he was crying and emotional.

[00:16:36]

It was really it was really something when I talked to Johnny. My main concern was, am I going to jail for the rest of my life because I didn't do what they said I did. And that was the whole thing. And it was like, I don't know how to disprove the police. I mean, it's my word against theirs. I mean, I don't really stand a chance.

[00:17:03]

The officers who shot Julian Petten had submitted signed statements stating that they'd fired their weapons after Julian shot at them first. But when investigators collected the gun, Julian had been holding and tested it. They found that it had never been fired. It was fully loaded. This confirmed what Julian had said from the beginning, that he had not shot at the police, the commander of the drug enforcement unit was William Knowles. He was later asked under oath whether any of the officers who participated in the raid of Julian Benton's apartment had been disciplined.

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He replied that they had not because, quote, they didn't do anything wrong. He was asked, did they do anything wrong when they submitted signed statements that were false?

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Commander William Knowles replied, I don't know that they submitted signed statements that were false. I know that that was their perception and that's what they believed.

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There's a difference, in my opinion, between a lie and someone that perceives something differently.

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It's just it was lies all the way up to the top and nobody above the people who shot me said anything was wrong with that.

[00:18:39]

The officers from the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit had made two claims from the beginning, one that they had shot Julian beaten after he fired at them. First tests later showed the Julians gun had never been fired. They also claimed that when they arrived to his apartment, they knocked and announced themselves before entering. Police sometimes obtain so-called no knock warrants, but in this case, the officers had a standard warrant which required them to knock on Julian's door, announce themselves as police officers and give Julian a reasonable amount of time to answer the door before entering.

[00:19:22]

The drug enforcement unit officers said on multiple occasions and typed in signed statements that they had knocked and announce themselves as police officers when they arrived at Julian Battens apartment.

[00:19:35]

Julian Batten said he never heard a knock, his next door neighbor, CentOS Garcia, who'd watched the whole thing, said he was 100 percent sure the police had not knocked. Here's Julian's attorney, Johnny McCoy.

[00:19:49]

So when you file the criminal discovery, they have to give you everything. So about three months after I filed my criminal discovery, the officer who was handling the battering ram shows up at my office. And he's got this sort of like DVR box in his hand with no cords, nothing, just a DVR box. And he's like, hey, man, I just wanted to bring this over to you. This is from Julian's house. Probably nothing and gives it to me.

[00:20:17]

I knew right then and there I had to call my buddy who knew anything about electronics. We ordered the correct cords for it. We had to buy brand new ones. We plugged in Ed. And when we got to the part. Where on on April 15th of 2015, at approximately, I think it was three o'clock in the afternoon, and we and the picture became clear and we saw these officers pull up on Julian's front lawn, there was proof they were lying.

[00:20:49]

I knew they were lying the whole time. But now I knew that there was you know, there was no way for them to get around it, that that we had them. Like, we got. We got them. We got them. That's when that's when the stuff start changing investment. That's when stuff stopped looking up for me was like, OK, we finally got something that disproves their life. It's like, OK, they they they said they're not going to announce before they came, they said, hey, not before they came in, they said they announced before they came in.

[00:21:21]

And then they said I fired at them and then they pointed the gun at them, which I thought was large. But I probably had to disprove one at a time. And we went on here involved in the surveillance video from Julian's security camera. You can see a white SUV pull up right in front of the building. You see Julian Button's next door neighbor, Santos Garcia, standing outside with his moped right in front of the house. Then all of a sudden, you see this white SUV pull up, right?

[00:21:54]

I mean, through the grass right up into this guy's face is working on the moped. There's no insignia on the white car. There's no there's no police insignia. You can't tell that it's a police car. Then five or so men who are not dressed in police uniforms, none of them have police insignia that's identifiable. Some of us have masks on. Some of them have baseball caps on that or backwards. Some have jeans on. Some have long sleeved shirts or some, you know, is totally scattered.

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You can't tell who these guys are, some of them that AR 15s. Well, most of them that they are 15. If one of them has a battering ram, they all exit this vehicle, three of them with the AR 15s right up on the porch. One of them opens the screen door. And the guy with the battering ram or not a dead sprint comes up the stairs and hammers the door down. Boom. Julians next door neighbor Santos Garcia told investigators, quote, If the men would have just knocked on Julian's door and announce themselves as police, I believe Julian would have walked out peacefully.

[00:23:09]

Did not have to happen the way it happened. In almost all of South Carolina, officer involved shootings are investigated by the South Carolina law enforcement division, also known as SLED SLED, conducted the investigation into Julians case, and their findings were reviewed by an independent prosecutor named Kevin Brackett, who announced in July of 2015 that none of the three officers who shot Julian Batton would face criminal charges. He said, quote, The officers were justified in their use of force.

[00:23:47]

They were acting in their own defense. Julian Batten did face criminal charges for possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute.

[00:23:59]

Julian ended up having to plead guilty to the possession of marijuana charge, possession of marijuana with intent distribute where he sold to that young lady. He had to plead, pled guilty to that, he owned up to it, but these officers never even got questioned about their lies, nothing. The judge suspended Julieann sentence, essentially giving him credit for the time he was in police custody in the hospital. Julian Burton filed a lawsuit against the city of Myrtle Beach and the officers and supervisors involved with the raid.

[00:24:35]

His lawyers, Johnny McCoy, joined by civil rights attorneys Burton Craig and Brad Bannon, deposed the drug enforcement unit officers at length and under oath. At one point during a deposition, Officer Chad Guest testified it's not the law to knock and announce, you know, it's just not it's the officer's discretion. Commander William Knowles was asked, what's the purpose of the knock, announce and wait constitutional requirement? He replied, I didn't write it. How would I know what the purpose of it is?

[00:25:11]

I know that it's a requirement. So we do it. I don't know what the purpose of it is. One of the officers involved in the raid of Julian's apartment, Officer Mark MacIntire, resigned shortly after. He went on the record stating that during his time, the drug enforcement unit from October 2014 through April 2015, quote, agents almost always forcibly entered without knocking or announcing or simultaneously with announcing.

[00:25:44]

Attorney Brad Bannon says Officer MacIntire was, in essence, a whistleblower. Some of the defendants settled for two point seventy five dollars million in March of 2000, 18 others, including Officer David Bulu and the city of Myrtle Beach, did not. Officer Bulu appealed on qualified immunity. The case was reviewed by the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The judges were critical of the way the police had treated Julian Batten as Judge Barbara Keenan said, they just came in to unload on this guy.

[00:26:22]

The Fourth Circuit rejected Officer Ballou's qualified immunity claim and sent the case back to the lower court. And just before jury selection, officials for the city of Myrtle Beach settled the case for eight point five dollars million. Combined with the earlier settlement amount, Julian was awarded a total of eleven point twenty five million dollars. His medical bills have already exceeded three million. None of the officers received any disciplinary action. How are you doing now, physically? Oh, I'm still I can I can take a look 10, maybe 12 steps with my walker.

[00:27:09]

But predominantly, I'm in a wheelchair for the most part of the day, but I can push it and get in and get my in and show out for about 10 or 12 steps. So I'm getting stronger. It's just taking longer than I thought it would. But my problem is my right leg doesn't bend at the knee and I have some excruciating nerve pain and it's kicking in right now. But it's like it seems like it never goes away. It has a mind of its own and we can't figure out why my right leg doesn't bent at the knee.

[00:27:43]

So I might have to have another surgery to have my leg get my knee to start bending. But once that happens, I can maybe start walking a little faster.

[00:27:53]

Are you in constant pain 90 percent of the day? Yes.

[00:27:57]

How do you how do you manage it?

[00:28:00]

Oh, a great sense of humor. A great sense of humor.

[00:28:10]

I try not to I try my best not to let that get me down. I've never been a pessimistic person, so I don't think I should start now.

[00:28:25]

He says the first thing he did when he got his settlement money was remodel the shower in his house to make it bigger so his wheelchair could fit.

[00:28:33]

I'm in love with water all over again. That was the first thing I bought for the shower.

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I got I got my I got my shower. I got my bridge that even my whole bathroom, just a shower remodeled so I could fit in there. And I have a wheelchair that sits in there that I get in that I transferred to from my wheelchair that stays in the shower. So, yes, that was the first thing I bought was a shower. What's your life like now, what what is what's life like for you now, simple now is that for I don't go I don't go to work.

[00:29:09]

I sit in the house and play video games for the most part all day. You like video games? Yes. Oh, yes. What's your favorite game?

[00:29:19]

Oh, right now, I would say Call of Duty.

[00:29:23]

I've never played a video game. I've only played Mario Brothers from, like, 1987 my whole life.

[00:29:28]

You have to play like snake on your phone like like, oh, you remember the only had the little snake in every play that was going, you know what, I, I actually yes.

[00:29:36]

I played that and I. OK, that's all right. OK, I guess I have played that. I remember that game. Oh my God. I forgot about that game.

[00:29:44]

Everybody played their game. Everybody played their game. Yeah. That was a decent game but I would do something to give them passes time.

[00:29:52]

What do you want people to know about what happened to you that it was wrong and that I was too late to prevent?

[00:30:06]

From happening to somebody else, because Brianna Taylor kind of was the same thing, except for she died and I didn't. And I mean, I was actually guilty of a crime she didn't cause she didn't even commit a crime. I mean, police get away with everything and it just goes back to the training, the cops, they shot me weren't the same cops. They shot Brianna Tyler, but the case happened the same way. It's the training. It's what they're trained to do.

[00:30:45]

So when. There are 12 officers arresting one guy for selling a bag of marijuana. It's like that that's wasting taxpayers money every day of the week, and it shouldn't be something that people were getting shot over in any type of way. We contacted the South Carolina law enforcement division and many of the agencies involved in the drug enforcement unit, including the Myrtle Beach Police Department, the county police department and the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office, but we haven't heard back.

[00:31:29]

In May of this year, Julian Batten was invited to meet with Myrtle Beach city officials during that meeting. They apologized for the shooting. Julian says none of the officers have ever apologized to him. No, none of the officers did. Would you like that? No. I mean, no, they didn't want to. They had a chance. They they didn't want to. And they don't want to. If they if they wanted to. If they wanted to, then I would it would be genuine and they would have done it.

[00:32:00]

And being that they haven't done it means they don't want to do it.

[00:32:03]

It would be disingenuous because they know, no, there's no need for and there's no need for it. There's no need at all for it. Criminalists created by Lauren Spor and me, Nadia Wilson is our senior producer, Susanna Robertson is our assistant producer, audio mix by Rob Byers. Special thanks to Matt Majak.

[00:32:41]

Julian Alexander makes original illustrations for each episode of Criminal. You can see them at this is criminal dotcom. We're on Facebook and Twitter at Criminal Show. Criminal is recorded in the studios of North Carolina Public Radio WNYC, where a proud member of Radio Topia from PUREX, a collection of the best podcasts around. I'm Phoebe Judge. This is criminal. Radio to hear from your ex.