More than a month after the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Seth Adams, his grieving family’s unanswered questions include why Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Custer did not come to his aid.
LOXAHATCHEE GROVES, Fla. — David Adams smiles as he thinks about the time his younger brother, Seth, met the woman he was planning to marry before he was fatally shot.
David and Seth were making a stop at Walgreens about seven months ago when 19-year-old Taylor Lindsten pulled up next to them in the parking lot.
"From that day on, they were just attached at the hip," David, 26, told The Palm Beach Post on Friday evening while sitting in his mobile home on 17 1/2 acres of land near A Road and Okeechobee Boulevard.
With a smile, the Adams brothers' mother, Lydia, added, "Love at first sight."
The love story brings comfort to the family in a time of mourning. Tuesday marks two months since Seth, 24, was shot by Palm Beach County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Custer in the parking lot of their home and business, A One Stop Garden Shop.
Seth had come home from Boonies Restaurant and Lounge on Southern Boulevard around 11:30 p.m. and found Custer in the shop's parking lot. Custer was conducting surveillance unrelated either to Seth or the business, and the two got into a confrontation.
According to Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Adams didn't listen when Custer said he was under arrest and instead tried to choke the officer. Adams went back to his truck, and Custer thought he was reaching for something, possibly a gun. When Adams turned around, Custer fired at him four times, killing him. Adams was unarmed.
Besides the love story, little brings such a smile to David's face, except for a tale about a family trip 16 or 17 years ago to Hontoon Island State Park north of Orlando.
"The ranger said if you see any little snakes, don't pick them up," David said.
David rolled up the bottom of his Seth Adams memorial T-shirt and pretended something was in it, remembering what his brother did years ago. "He had six or seven snakes in his shirt," David said. "He had (snake bite) holes in his shirt!"
That carefree, independent personality made Seth's parents Lydia and Richard proud.
Growing up near Melbourne and Palm Bay, Seth played the saxophone and flute in the school band. He was on the crew team and tried football for a year, but the sport was too "rough and tumble" for him, Lydia said.Instead, Seth stuck to surfing and the beach.
For a school project, the brothers created a business called Mow and More. The brothers would go from home to home in their neighborhood, asking if they could mow their neighbors' lawns.
David said Seth's work ethic led him to ask Seth several months ago to return to Florida to help him and his wife, Raina, with their business. Seth had moved to Albany, N.Y., where he worked as a chef at a Crowne Plaza hotel and a Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
"He was the face of the business," David said wiping his eyes.
The Adams family doesn't believe Seth tried to choke Custer. Neither do many of their customers, David said.
"None of that makes sense. If the officer told him, ‘You are under arrest,' he would have laid down on the floor and put his hands behind his back," David said.
Seth called Raina at 11:41 p.m., saying he'd been shot. David went to look for him and saw the light from Seth's cell phone. He found Seth on the ground, covered in blood. He saw police farther away in the parking lot and thought they were there to help.
"He's down here," David screamed. He didn't know Seth had been shot by an officer and didn't expect that he'd also soon be ordered to the ground, along with Raina.
Medical records show Seth was flown to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, arriving at 12:28 a.m. He was pronounced dead at 1:58 a.m.
Richard and Lydia Adams drove two hours from Palm Bay to Loxahatchee Groves that night as soon as they heard about the shooting. They claim that when they arrived, they still had not been told the hospital to which Seth had been taken, and they question why it took rescue crews more than 45 minutes to transport him 15 miles to St. Mary's. The family said deputies blocked off A Road, making it difficult for the EMS crew to get to Seth.
"We're trying to figure out what to do, and in the meantime, Seth is deceased," Lydia Adams said.
Among the family's other questions:
— Why had Custer parked in their business parking lot when signs there tell drivers not to do so?
— Why had Custer allowed Seth to open the gate dividing the parking lot from the business, allowing him to walk hundreds of yards to where he collapsed?
— Why was Seth lying alone while officers had blocked Raina and David from helping him?
— Why had no one helped Seth while they waited for EMS to arrive?
Seth's dried blood remains on the wall where he opened the gate. At a recent memorial, a family pastor drizzled
The shooting is still being investigated by the sheriff's office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office. Bradshaw on Friday told The Post that most of the forensics of the shooting have been completed and he plans to have a news conference once the investigation is complete.
"I feel terrible for the family," Bradshaw said. "It's gotta be horrible. I wish it would had never happened."
He said the information he will release at the news conference will "verify exactly what I thought from the beginning."
Lydia and Richard have left their home in Palm Bay to live in Seth's room in the trailer. Richard left his position as a systems operator at Southeast Wood Treating. Lydia is on leave from her community-service position with the Melbourne Police Department.
The family hopes the U.S. Department of Justice will investigate the shooting.
"When we lost him everything changed. Everything I look at reminds me of him," David said. Tears filled his eyes as he put his head back, and he spoke in a voice full of pain.
"I want to say that I'm happy I have things to remember him by, but I'm so sad because we had such a dream," David said. "We were supposed to have something. We were supposed to make something of ourselves. He didn't have the chance."
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