PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Federal Judge Daniel Hurley started off Wednesday saying the civil case surrounding the shooting death of Seth Adams at the hands of a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Sgt. represents an "enormous tragedy no matter how its resolved." Judge Hurley then quickly showed frustration, blasting PBSO for losing and destroying key evidence, including Sgt. Michael Custer's cell phone and several PBSO-issued laptops.
As a result, members of the Adams family walked out of federal court not knowing if their civil case against the sheriff's office will go to trial, which is tentatively set for November.
Adams family attorney, Wallace McCall, choked up when asked how the family is doing.
"They're tired, but they're in it and they'll do whatever it takes," said McCall.
It's been more than 3 years since Sgt Micahel Custer shot and killed 24-year-old Adams in the parking lot of the Adams family garden shop in Loxahatchee. According to Custer, he was parked in the parking lot of the family's business doing unrelated undercover surveillance when Adams pulled up. Adams also lived on the property and was returning home just before midnight.
At issue since day one, did the shooting go down the way Sgt. Custer claims it did? Sgt Custer has always maintained Adams, who was legally drunk but unarmed at the time, was aggressive and eventually grabbed Custer's throat. Custer claimed he only pulled the trigger when he thought Adams was reaching for a gun.
Adams family attorney disputes Custer's account, pointing to physical evidence like bullet fragments and blood trail, he says, makes it impossible for Custer to have shot Adams the way he says he did.
The Adams family wants this case to go to trial. PBSO wants it thrown out. During Wednesday's hearing, among the issues attorneys for Custer and PBSO pointed out was since Custer was acting in his scope as a law enforcement officer, he nor PBSO can be held liable since they are protected by government/official immunity.
Judge Hurley will not make any decision on whether or not to throw out the case until he learns exactly how key evidence went missing and who is responsible. Judge Hurley said he was, "deeply disturbed" that this evidence was not available, "the community should be deeply disturbed," he said.
The missing evidence will be dissected during an evidentiary hearing which has not yet been set. At that point, the judge will also determine what, if any, consequences PBSO will face because of it.