The local media has now gotten wind of the apparent coverup attempt of the incident involving two off-duty joy-riding, strip club carousing deputies; one who fired his gun out the window of a moving car, nearly striking another deputy who was on duty.
But investigators, if you want to call them that, are doing their best to keep this incident under wraps.
However, we now have names and even pictures of the Broward deputy who likely did the shooting.
And we even reached out to him at home, asking if he had anything he would like to say.
But Norman “Erik” Stepleton was not very talkative.
” You know I cannot say anything,” the rookie deputy told PINAC investigator and news researcher Felipe Hemming during a brief phone call to his South Florida home Friday night.
As of now, the 26-year-old who has been on the force just over a year is on paid administrative leave for the incident that took place at 3:37 a.m. on January 5 in front of the Walgreens on Haverhill Road and Okeechobee Road in West Palm Beach.
Had he not been a deputy, he would likely have already been charged with a second degree felony for firing a gun from a moving vehicle, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
But because he carried a badge, the Palm Beach sheriff’s deputy who was nearly hit by whizzing bullet, as the story goes, ended up not arresting him, instead releasing him to his Broward County Sheriff’s superiors, who drove up from the county just south.
His buddy, Christopher Mattingly, 24, who’s been on the force for two years, is on restricted assignment for his involvement, so it doesn’t appear as if he did the shooting. And it’s still not clear who was doing the driving.
Whoever was driving, it would be surprising if they even administered a breathalyzer test.
Meanwhile, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is ensuring it is investigating the incident but it is not releasing any details.
But it appears as if the state attorney’s office was forced to investigate the incident after both the Palm Beach and Broward county sheriff’s offices tried to sweep it under the carpet in an attempt of “professional courtesy” – only for an anonymous tipster to reach out to Florida Cop Watch earlier this week, who in turn brought the PINAC research investigative team into the investigation.
From our story earlier this week:
Two off-duty Broward County sheriff deputies were leaving a strip club earlier this month when one of them began firing a gun out the window, nearly striking a pair of Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies who were on duty.
That led to the on-duty deputies pulling over the off-duty deputies in a felony stop, which normally results in jail time and criminal charges if it involves somebody shooting a gun out the window.
But that didn’t happen this time.
Instead, the Palm Beach County deputies made some calls and eventually, the off-duty deputies were released to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, who had shown up on the scene.
This is what the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reported Friday:
Back on January 5 at 3:37 a.m., a shot was fired in front of the Walgreens on Haverhill Road and Okeechobee Road in West Palm Beach. PBSO confirmed then that a shot was fired but didn’t release any details. But this week, Florida Cop Watch reported something a little more interesting: Two off-duty Broward deputies were so excited after leaving a strip club, they just had to let one out of the chamber, which almost hit a PBSO cop and ended up hitting an innocent Walgreens.
The fun tale continues. After the post-stripper shootout, PBSO stopped the gun-firing revelers and then realized they too were cops. So instead of arresting them, a higher-ranking BSO official was called in and apparently took his boys home to sleep it off. No charges were filed, of course.
New Times tried to confirm the details with PBSO on Thursday, but spokesperson Teri Barbera would tell us only that a shot was indeed fired that night and that the matter is under investigation.
However, BSO Public Information Director Veda Coleman-Wright confirmed with New Times that two Broward deputies are being investigated by PBSO.
Deputy Norman Stepelton, 26, on the force for just over one year, has been suspended with pay.
And Deputy Christopher Mattingly, 24, – in his second year with BSO – is on restricted assignment.
And this is what the South Florida Sun Sentinel had to say Friday:
Two Broward County Sheriff’s deputies are being investigated after a firearm was discharged at an intersection near West Palm Beach, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
No one was struck by the gunfire that happened Jan. 5 at 3:37 a.m at Haverhill Road North and Okeechobee Boulevard, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
The deputies were off duty that morning, Broward Sheriff’s spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said.
Deputy Norman Stepelton, 26, was hired in November 2013. He is suspended with pay. Deputy Christopher Mattingly, 24, joined BSO in November 2012 and is on restricted assignment. Both worked out of the Deerfield Beach district and had to turn in their patrol cars, Coleman-Wright said.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said he couldn’t comment on details of the case but added that when the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office concludes its investigation, BSO’s internal affairs division will “respond accordingly.”
PBSO’s Barbera declined to release incident reports, citing the open investigation. The Broward deputies were interviewed by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office but were not arrested, she said.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw called Israel about the incident the same day it happened, after both agencies’ internal affairs divisions were already working on it, Israel and Coleman-Wright both said.
“It’s being handled the right way, the professional way,” Israel said.
During the brief conversation with Hemming Friday evening, Stepelton came across humble and almost apologetic, knowing his career as a law enforcement might be over before it hardly began.
Considering he describes himself as “the most jacked guy in the room” on a Facebook he created a few years dedicated to his passion for weight lifting in which he has Photoshopped himself to look like the Incredible Hulk, it might not be such a bad thing.
After all, we really don’t need anymore jacked-up, muscle-bounded cops with loose trigger fingers prowling our city streets.
Judging by his graduation pictures from the police academy in Palm Beach County from November 2012, he most definitely is the most jacked-up guy in the room, towering over everybody else.
At 6’3″ and 250 pounds of muscle, according to his NCAA player profile, the Pompano Beach High School graduate played back-up quarterback for the Jacksonville University Dolphins for four years, throwing 11 touchdown pass but seven interceptions.
But he also possesses one of the brightest smiles in the room on a day where his family proudly took photos of the ceremony, congratulating him on the career he chose to pursue, confident he would excel.
He appears approachable and genuine and even intelligent in those photos. A man happy to spend more than $4,000 out of his own pocket to spend five days a week, eleven hours day, for nine months to graduate from the academy where he became certified to work for law enforcement agencies.
And perhaps that’s why his superiors chose to whisk him away from the scene in the hopes nobody would notice. They probably liked the rookie
But recklessly shooting a gun in the air is a dangerous crime, especially if you almost strike a cop.
Normally that type of assault on law enforcement officers becomes headline news within hours of it happening with the gunman winding up dead or in handcuffs.
But only when the shots don’t come from other deputies.
That’s when you don’t have Blue Privilege.