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. -- Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw on Friday asked the state for an independent review of an officer's fatal shooting of a Loxahatchee Groves man last month.
Bradshaw's request - the first time he has sought an independent review since taking office in 2005 - comes one day after an attorney for the family of Seth Adams raised questions about how the sheriff's office handled the May 16 shooting at A Road and Okeechobee Boulevard.
Bradshaw has maintained that his officer, Sgt. Michael Custer, acted appropriately in the incident, which happened while Custer was performing undercover surveillance near the garden shop Adams' family owns and which followed a late-night confrontation with Adams.
But Bradshaw said Friday he asked for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement review in light of concerns expressed by Adams' family and several community groups, as well as the lack of lack of what he called "other evidence" - the testimony of other deputies or dashboard camera footage - to corroborate what took place.
" We haven't had it where there's no other thing to go on, other than the two people that were there and there's only one statement that is available and that is what the deputy has to say," Bradshaw said.
He said he still believes Custer acted properly.
"There's nothing to hide," he said.
Bradshaw's announcement came on the day The Palm Beach Post reported that a lawyer for Adams' family questioned whether sheriff's deputies tried to help Adams - who was unarmed - after Custer had shot him multiple times during their confrontation.
The lawyer, Valentin Rodriguez, alleged that deputies let Adams bleed to death, choosing instead to tackle his brother, David, who had ran out of the family trailer on A Road to rescue him. Seth Adams had twice called his brother to say he had been "shot by a cop."
"He could have been saved," Rodriguez, told The Post. "This was complete disregard for his medical care. These weren't shots to kill. You're supposed to render aid."
Rodriguez on Friday called the FDLE review a positive development.
"That's exactly the first step in the right direction," Rodriguez said. "It's unprecedented. We've always wanted it to happen in those cases and we're really glad that they're willing to take this step to let an independent agency, with their expertise, come in."
Bradshaw declined to respond specifically to Rodgriguez's allegations, but reiterated his belief that Custer acted in an appropriate manner.
Shortly after the shooting, Bradshaw said Custer had identified himself as a law-enforcement officer to Adams, and that Adams' actions had given Custer reason to think he might be searching for a gun. Custer, a 14-year veteran of the sheriff's office, has been placed on administrative leave while the case is reviewed.
"Based on the information that I have right now, I think the deputy did everything he should have done at that time and protected his life," Bradshaw said. "I don't have any reason at this point to deviate from that belief."
In the shooting's aftermath, a public outcry has led to an online petition with nearly 3,000 signees on the website Change.org calling for "a fair investigation."
"I'm very sympathetic to the family and what they're going through," Bradshaw said. "It's a tragedy for everybody and anytime you lose a family member under any circumstances, it's very tough and I understand that and I'm sympathetic to that.
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