It took nearly a month, but a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested this week, accused of firing a gun out the window of a speeding car early one morning after a night of carousing at a rooftop bar in West Palm Beach, nearly striking a group of Palm Beach County deputies parked near a Walgreens, forcing them to seek cover.
The arrest comes several weeks after both departments, along with the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, apparently tried to sweep the incident under the carpet because it only came to light when an anonymous tipster reached out to Florida Cop Watch, who then passed the tip along to PINAC.
Arrested for firing a weapon from a vehicle was Norman “Erik” Stepelton, 26, who has been a deputy just over a year. He is facing up to 15 years in prison, but he’s a cop, so he won’t get anything near that.
Stepelton attended Pompano Beach High School, then played backup quarterback for Jacksonville University.
Also arrested was a man named Jeffrey Behan, 23, who does not appear to be a deputy, but a friend of Stepelton who also shot the gun after the deputy fired it out the window.
The driver of the car, a Broward deputy named Christopher Mattingly, 24, was not arrested.
According to the Palm Beach Post:
A Broward County Sheriff’s deputy, who is accused of firing a handgun out of a car window near West Palm Beach, was booked into Palm Beach County Jail and later released under supervision, according to jail records.
Broward County Sheriff’s deputy Norman “Erik” Stepelton, 26, and co-defendant Jeffrey Behan, 23, of Wellington, were both arrested on charges of firing a weapon from a vehicle this week following the Jan. 5 incident.
Stepelton and Behan were in a car driven by BSO deputy Christopher Mattingly, 24, who was speeding westbound on Okeechobee Boulevard shortly after 3:30 a.m., according to the arrest report. The men were returning from a night out at Roxy’s Roof Top Bar, 309 North Clematis Street.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies heard Stepelton fire a gun multiple times. According to the report, he passed the weapon to Behan, who shot twice into the air. Behan’s profession is not mentioned in the report.
The four Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, who were parked in a Walgreens parking lot, feared that they were being fired upon and took cover behind their vehicles. Two deputies heard shots pass their heads.
Deputies found 10 spent shell casings in the area, nine of which were from a gun matching the one found in the vehicle, the report said. Records show that Stepelton purchased the gun in August 2012.
Stepelton, who was hired in November 2013, had been suspended from the department with pay following the incident. Mattingly, who was hired in November 2012, was taken off road patrol. Both deputies were asked to turn in their vehicles following the incident, BSO spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright told The Palm Beach Post earlier this month.
Mattingly has not been arrested, and the report makes no mention of him firing the weapon.
Behan was booked Tuesday and Stepelton was booked Wednesday.
The Palm Beach sheriff’s deputies pulled the men over after the shots were fired, thinking the felony traffic stop could turn deadly, but when they realized it was only other deputies in the car, they made some phone calls and Stepelton and Mattingly were released to their superiors without having to be arrested, which is what normally would take place in a case like this.
They obviously never bothered to give Mattingly a breathalyzer, assuming we are to believe he was completely sober when he allowed his friends to shoot guns out of the air after leaving a bar at 3:30 a.m.