WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — As a grieving mother tried to hold her son's body after he was killed by a Florida sheriff's deputy, another deputy pushed her to the hospital floor, her husband testified Thursday.
Dick Adams told a federal civil court jury he and his wife Lydia rushed 110 miles after learning their unarmed 24-year-old son, Seth Adams, had been shot by Palm Beach County Sgt. Michael Custer on May 16, 2012. The Adamses are seeking unspecified millions in a lawsuit that alleges the shooting was unjustified. Custer contends he fired after Seth Adams attacked him.
Dick Adams said the family learned at the emergency room his son had died and a nurse took them to the body.
"Lydia rushes up to him, as any mother would, and this person pushes her to the floor," saying he was evidence, Adams said. "I threw myself on top of her like a blanket" to protect her.
Crime scene investigator Julie Ann Brandt, who was examining and photographing the body, testified earlier that she blocked Lydia Adams because the body couldn't be disturbed, but denied pushing her. She said Lydia Adams was overcome by emotion and collapsed.
Custer, who has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, has said he shot Seth Adams after an intense, unprovoked fight that left him fearing for his life. Custer, dressed in plain clothes, had been leading a surveillance team monitoring a gang of ATM robbers when he parked his unmarked SUV in the parking lot of the nursery Seth Adams ran and lived at with his brother and sister-in-law.
Adams arrived home about 11:40 p.m. from a bar. Custer says Adams began yelling at him, even after he identified himself as a deputy, and then rushed him, grabbing him by the neck. He says he shot Adams after he ran back to his truck, fished around in the cab as if retrieving a weapon and spun toward him.
The family's attorneys have tried to poke holes in Custer's story, insisting that his story is contradicted by the testimony of a fellow deputy, who didn't see Custer and Adams arguing when he drove past about a minute before the shooting; the location of the bullet casings; the blood trail; the lack of bruising on Custer's neck; and his radio transmissions.
Lynsey Baggs, a friend who had spent an hour with Seth Adams at a bar named Boonies, testified Thursday that Adams was in a good mood when he left the bar, minutes before he was shot. While Adams' blood tests showed he was legally drunk, Baggs said he didn't appear impaired.
She said Adams had been encouraging her to get out a bad relationship and had been asking her for suggestions about a gift he planned to buy his girlfriend. They made plans to go to the gym the next morning.
"Seth was full of love and happiness," she said. "He was someone who would light up a room."
The sheriff office's attorneys are expected to begin their defense case next week.