Seth Adams' family lawyer cross-examines PBSO Deputy Michael Custer in civil wrongful death suit

Posted at 11:03 AM, Mar 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 23:40:22-05

Both sides have rested their case in the multi-million dollar civil trial against Palm Beach County Sergeant Michael Custer.

Custer shot and killed 24 year old Seth Adams in May 2012. The Adams family is suing Custer, accusing him of using excessive and unjustified force.

While under cross-examination Thursday, Sergeant Michael Custer testified that he told at least two arriving officers the night of May 16, 2012, that he had shot 24 year old Seth Adams, because Adams had attacked him.

But two days later, during a taped statement with a PBSO investigator, and alongside a lawyer, Custer presented a different version for the first time.

Notable links:

Listen to audio of Custer's radio calls after shooting
Federal judge blasts PBSO's investigation of Adams shooting

Custer told a detective he shot Adams because he thought Adams had a gun.

Custer claims after a brief fight with Adams, Adams ran to his pickup truck and started rummaging around for what Custer believed was a weapon. Custer fired 4 shots.

Custer also testified, that he did not do a walk-through at A One Stop Garden Shop, the scene of the shooting, the night it happened. It's customary for officers involved in police shootings to do so.

Custer explained he was not asked to do so because there was a possibility surveillance cameras may have captured video of the shooting. Custer said his attorney wanted to view the video first.

Wally McCall, an attorney for the Adams, did not go easy on Custer. He asked Custer about inconsistencies in that first May 2012 statement, a deposition in 2014, and testimony in the trial.

Some of those inconsistencies involved Custer's PBSO issued cell phone, which went missing in June of 2012. Custer's cell phone was found under his front seat the night of the shooting, but PBSO did not take it into custody. An investigator testified that it "did not have criminal value."

During testimony Thursday, Custer said he was not 100% sure what happened to his cell phone that night and how it could there. But the Adams attorney pointed out that in 2014, under oath, Custer said he went back into the crime scene to pick it up.

McCall then questioned Custer about where Adams was standing when he was shot, which is a big argument in this case. Custer said Thursday Adams spun out from the general area of the front door.

McCall pointed out that Custer had originally said, in a taped deposition in 2014, that Custer said Adams was between the door and the truck.

"Where was he?" asked McCall. Custer said "well he was active, moving .. rapidly advancing. Never said he was motionless."

. The Adams family says Custer's version of events don't match up with the physical evidence.

McCall continued to question Custer on Adams' positioning to which Custer said "I use door area as a general landmark for the door and side of truck." McCall pointed out that this was different information than Custer had previously testified to.

Experts have testified that Adams was first shot in the right arm and began bleeding immediately. McCall showed pictures of Adams' truck, which showed no blood inside the truck, on the front seat or one the driver side door.

"Would you expect to see a bullet hole in that door since you fired 4 shots at him there?," asked McCall.

"Not necessarily. If the window was open, could have gone through. Could have gone over the door," said Custer.

Custer told the jury Thursday he had made an improper, inaccurate statement at the time, but did not mean to deceive anyone.

Closing statements will begin on Monday morning.