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May 16, 2012 — Loxahatchee Groves

Sgt. Michael Custer was working undercover on a string of ATM robberies.

In plain clothes and an unmarked car, he was parked in the lot of a nursery at 11:40 p.m. when Seth Adams, 24, pulled up in his truck.

Adams lived in a trailer on the grounds of his family's business. Authorities said that the two got into an argument and then a fight. Read more

Custer said Adams was drunk and choked him. Custer broke free, pulled his service pistol and told Adams he was under arrest. Adams then went to his truck and leaned in to reach for something inside. Custer said he believed Adams was reaching for a weapon, so he shot him four times. Adams died at the hospital.

It turned out that he was not armed and was instead reaching for his cellphone. An autopsy indicated he was intoxicated.

Custer was cleared by the FDLE, state attorney and sheriff. Adams' family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office and Custer.

They maintain that blood evidence showed Adams was behind the truck when shot and that the fatal bullets had a downward trajectory, indicating he was doubled-over after being shot in the wrist. Custer said that Adams was crouching when he spun around after reaching into his truck.

This was the 49th police shooting in Florida in 2012.

Four days earlier, three officers shot one person in Miami .

One day later, one officer shot one person in Miami .

4 ways this case compares to others

  1. Evidence in this case, and accounts given by officers and witnesses, included conflicting details. That was true for 27 other cases.
  2. Police thought Adams, who was unarmed, was reaching for a weapon before shooting him. Thirty-eight unarmed people were shot when police said they saw them reach for something.
  3. Adams was drinking alcohol before being shot. That’s true in about 10 percent of police shootings.
  4. A civil lawsuit was filed in response to Adams's shooting. Ninety other cases led to lawsuits.

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