SUBURBAN WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is standing by his deputy who shot and killed an unarmed Loxahatchee Groves man.
Sheriff Bradshaw, speaking at a press conference on Friday, said deputy Michael Custer was in danger when confronted by Seth Adams, 23, and was left with no choice but to pull out his gun and fire.
On Wednesday night around 11:40 p.m., Sheriff Bradshaw said Adams had pulled up to his family's plant nursery to find Custer in his unmarked car in the parking lot.
Custer was on duty conducting "western community surveillance," according to investigators.
Sheriff Bradshaw said when Adams confronted Custer he identified himself as a deputy. That is when Adams allegedly began verbally abusing the deputy from his car. A short time later, investigators said the situation escalated and the two men got out of their vehicles.
Sheriff Bradshaw said Adams lunged for Custer's neck but was pushed away by the deputy.
"If you're going to assault a law enforcement officer, or a deputy sheriff, they you need to be prepared to suffer the consequences," said Bradshaw.
Investigators said Custer pulled out his firearm and told Adams he was under arrest. Adams allegedly got up and went to go inside his car, where the deputy could not see any hands. Sheriff Bradshaw said Custer again announced Adams was under arrest. Adams allegedly continued to look into his vehicle and Custer made the split-second decision to fire at the unarmed man.
"Do you think for one minute that this deputy went to work that night, left his house and said, 'I'm going to go out and get involved in something like this tonight?' No. He went out to do his job which is protect this community," said Bradshaw.
The family lawyer representing the Adams family does not agree with the portrayal of the shooting.
"Just so many unanswered questions because none of this makes any sense. It doesn't make any sense for a man to be on his own private property, unarmed, non-aggressive personality to be shot four times," said Robert Saylor.
Saylor said the family cannot imagine Adams being the aggressor. They said Adams was a kind soul who tried helping everyone he met.
"They're devastated. I mean, I've sat in there and listened to them and they're in tears. They're just in pain," said Saylor.
Friends of Adams spent the evening painting a wall at the nursery the family owns. It has Seth's name, date of birth, and a message that says " Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." But there is another message too, from a sheriff who says his deputy did exactly what he was supposed to do.
The investigation is in the hands of the state attorney who will decided if the shooting was justified.
The involved deputy, Michael Custer, will remain on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol.
The family of Adams said they have already begun their own private investigation.
Story updated to clarify spelling of Sheriff Ric Bradshaw