Jury sees gun used to kill Seth Adams - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Jury sees gun used to kill Seth Adams

Before court broke for lunch, a senior forensic scientist from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, sitting on the witness stand, held up the .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun Sergeant Michael Custer used when he shot and killed Seth Adams in May 2012.

The Glock was zip-tied to the bottom of a cardboard box, empty of all cartridges, for safety purposes.

Forensic scientist Allison Quereau is the latest witness to be called in the civil trial against Sergeant Michael Custer. Seth Adams’ parents are suing Custer and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, accusing the officer of using excessive force when he killed Adams.

Wednesday’s witness testimony began with former detective Christopher Neumann, now an agent with a PBSO tact unit. Neumann was the lead detective in charge of the investigation into Seth Adams’ death. 

This is the second day on the stand for detective Neumann. Wallace McCall, an attorney for the Adams family, began his second day of questioning by asking about Custer’s cellphone. Although Custer’s cellphone clip was photographed as evidence, found lying on the ground at the scene, Custer’s cellphone was never taken in that night, despite photos that show it in the back of Custer’s car. Speaking in hypotheticals, McCall asked whether Custer could have picked the cellphone up and hid it. Neumann responded, “although it is possible, I would have liked for him to tell me, it would be considered evidence in the crime scene.”

Custer's cellphone was never found after he claimed he turned it into PBSO, a month after the shooting. McCall, and the Adams family, claim Custer is lying about what happened during the shooting, and the sheriff’s office helped him cover up his actions. 

Throughout the morning, McCall grilled Neumann on his investigation, asking whether Neumann ever tried contradict Custer’s version of events with the physical evidence they say doesn't agree with his version of events. Neumann explained his role as an investigator was “not to analyze all the evidence,” but to collect it, conduct interviews and hand all the information over to the State’s Attorney Office. Neumann told the court, “I do not make the decision on whether Sergeant Custer is justified, that is the State Attorney’s role.” McCall argued that the SAO’s investigation was only as good as the investigation Neumann gave them.

Under friendlier questioning, Neumann told the defense, when he arrived on scene of A One Stop Garden Shop in Loxahatchee Groves after midnight on May 16, 2012, he was there to not only investigate how Seth Adams died, but also investigate allegations that Adams had choked Custer before he was shot, making this a battery investigation as well. Custer has maintained Adams confronted him in the parking lot while Custer was working undercover in plainclothes, attacked him, than reached into his truck for what Custer thought was a gun. Custer says that's why he shot him. He says Adams was hanging out of the front door of his truck. 

Neumann told the defense he didn’t speak to Custer until two days after the shooting, nor did Custer do a walk-through of the shooting that night at the scene. He says Custer has the same rights as anyone else, not to give a statement the night an incident happens.

Neumann said he treated Custer as both the suspect in a homicide, and a potential victim of battery. He said nothing Custer ever told him during the investigation made him suspect Custer was lying.

McCall has argued physical evidence shows Adams was not shot while near the front door of his truck, like Custer said. That evidence includes blood trails found 8-10 feet from the truck, and shell casings, which were found behind the truck. No blood or bullet casings were found inside the truck.

The defense asked whether shell casings could bounce, or be moved, which Neumann said was a possibility. He also confirmed that he was not a blood spatter expert, and could not say when or where Adams started bleeding. He said that physical evidence could also support Custer’s version, when he said Adams spun out of his truck, and Custer shot him.

Neumann told the jury, he never “made up evidence, fabricated or destroyed evidence, nor was he asked to.”

McCall had a chance to ask Neumann additional questions, and did not let up. He said video from Custer's own statement, and photos, show Custer held the gun to the side when he shot, meaning bullets would fly to the right, and drop where he was.

McCall asked Neumann several times, in a raised voice, how he could reach his conclusions based on the evidence, which McCall says clearly shows Custer was lying.

Neumann repeated several times that it was not “my job to reconcile, make any decision about truth or lying, justified or unjustified force.” Neumann said that lay in the hands of the State Attorney’s Office, which declined to press criminal charges.

With one final question, McCall asked Neumann “are you going to tell this jury under oath, you did you job?” Neumann replied, “yes, I would tell this jury under oath, I did my job.”

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