WEST PALM BEACH — In response to an attempt by Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to be excused from facing the music in the 2012 killing of unarmed civilian Seth Adams, Adams’ lawyer this week filed a scathing, shocking study in prejudgment, incompetence and willful dismissal of evidence in the investigation into the shooting.
The paperwork was filed Friday to prevent Bradshaw and Adams’ killer, suspended-with-pay Sgt. Michael Custer, from being DISMISSED from the case.
The decision to excuse them, or not, will come after a hearing Oct. 7 in the West Palm Beach federal court.
Adams’ family filed a civil rights violation suit against Bradshaw, Custer and PBSO in connection with the shooting death of the 24-year-old man on the parking lot of his family’s landscaping business in Loxahatchee.
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Since then, Sheriff Bradshaw has resisted depositions while his agency has resisted opening its books, archives and electronic systems to Adams’ family. PBSO even admitted to “losing” a key piece of evidence.
Despite its numerous failures in the Adams investigation, PBSO’s outside attorneys claim both Bradshaw and Custer should be dismissed from the lawsuit.
No way, says West Palm Beach legal eagle Wally McCall, on behalf of Adams’ family.
According to McCall’s response, Bradshaw is liable for Adams’ death for several reasons.
Use of force policy changed without telling deputies?
First, PBSO’s deadly force policy was amended four days before the May 16, 2012 Adams shooting.
The new policy mandates that deputies use deadly force only when it is “objectively reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances.” And the 2012 order also mandates deputies to render first aid if someone were injured when a deputy used force.
Thing is, McCall wrote, his team could find NO EVIDENCE that Bradshaw had deputies, including Custer, briefed or trained on the 2012 policy.
Interestingly, the amended policy came after 149 use of force incidents between 2007 and May 2012, including the deaths of 29 civilians.
In at least five cases, deputies shot unarmed civilians INSIDE MOTOR VEHICLES.
149 use of force cases, only one deputy found guilty
In the 149 cases, ONE DEPUTY was found to have acted inappropriately.
The finding came, says McCall, only AFTER THAT DEPUTY COMMITTED SUICIDE.
In Adams’ case, McCall claims PBSO bungled its own investigation into whether Custer did the right thing when he gunned down Adams.
McCall says the Internal Affairs deputy assigned to the task of unraveling the circumstances of Adams’ death, Christopher Neuman, failed to perform the basics of police work.
One failure after the next
According to McCall, his team has discovered that Neuman FAILED to find the beginning and the end of Adams’ blood trail; FAILED to determine the origin of a bullet found in the back of Adams’ truck; FAILED to retrieve and analyze Custer’s boots; FAILED to retrieve and analyze DNA found in Custer’s service car, EVEN LETTING HIM DRIVE AWAY FROM THE SCENE; FAILED to review photographs from inside Custer’s car and double-check some of Custer’s claims; and FAILED to retrieve Custer’s cell phone, a key piece of evidence that PBSO claims it lost.
Wait, there is more: Neuman FAILED to attend Adams’ autopsy or review the autopsy photos; FAILED to determine to origin of a wet spot that suggested the presence of another car at the scene; FAILED to interview a fellow agent who saw Custer talking to Adams in a seemingly normal way; FAILED to have Custer go through a reenactment of the shooting; and he FAILED to check out Custer’s employment history, which shows he may not have been able to perform under pressure.
Neuman’s report eventually convinced authorities to declare the shooting “justified” only because Custer claimed he was in fear for his life.
Bradshaw, says McCall, should be held liable for all these failures.
PBSO isn’t commenting on active lawsuits filed against the agency.