The family of a man shot and killed by a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputy has formally asked the Palm Beach County State Attorney to reopen the criminal investigation into deputy Michael Custer.
Custer shot and killed Seth Adams in 2012. The State Attorney's Office declined to press charges at that time.
The Adams family sued Sgt. Custer and PBSO, accusing Custer of using excessive force.
Custer was participating in an undercover surveillance operation the night of the shooting and parked his unmarked vehicle at a gardening business owned and operated by the Adams family, despite signs prohibiting after hours parking.
Seth Adams arrived home at about 11:40 p.m. that evening and, upon exiting his vehicle to open the gate, was confronted by Custer. During an ensuing altercation, Custer drew his Glock pistol and shot Adams three times, ultimately causing his death.
Custer testified Adams was shot after reaching into the cab of his truck, presumably to obtain a weapon, thereby putting Custer in fear for his life.
During the trial, the Adams family and their attorneys presented testimony from several witnesses that they said showed physical evidence did not match Custer's version of events. Adams was unarmed.
In March of this year, a federal judge declared a mistrial, after jurors could not unanimously reach a verdict in the civil trial. Eight of nine jurors found in favor of the Adams family. A second civil trial was set to begin on July 10.
But, earlier this month, the sheriff's office agreed to settle a civil case against the department and Custer for $2.5 million. But the Adams family says it will continue to fight for what it calls justice.
The Adams have provided State Attorney Aronberg with testimony transcripts from that trial, specifically the testimony of PBSO Detective Christopher Neuman. During the civil trial, Neuman said on the stand it was not his job "to reconcile inconsistencies," in Sgt. Custer's statements.
The Adams argue "the previous State Attorney could not possibly have performed an open and adequate investigation based upon the information provided by PBSO."
The Adams lawyers are requesting a meeting with the State Attorney's and their investigator to explain what the evidence and testimony establish.
The Adams family issued this statement to WPTV:
"This is 5 years overdue! It's time for PBSO and the SAO to stop pointing fingers ... there are NO more excuses! SA Dave Aronberg needs to do his job and reopen this investigation and bring appropriate criminal charges against Sgt. Custer, along with those who interfered with the investigation; a complete review of the evidence tampering that was exposed during trial testimony. Seth deserves JUSTICE and this community needs the assurance of competence and truth from the Sheriff's Office!"
The State Attorney has so far not commented.
On the day a settlement was reached a spokesperson for the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office said it would not reopen the criminal investigation. The office said despite the civil trial there was no new evidence it needed to consider.
Click here for the letter the attorneys for the Adams family sent to the State Attorney's Office.