May 15, 2017

The family of an unarmed man shot and killed by an undercover Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy settled their civil lawsuit for $2.5 million, their attorneys said.

The settlement is the largest ever from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Seth Adams’ family attorneys said.

The family also called on the State Attorney’s Office to reopen the criminal investigation into the Sheriff’s Office and Sgt. Michael Custer, who was not charged in the fatal shooting.

“This settlement is not justice, but it is vindication for Seth and an acknowledgment by the Sheriff’s Office that the shooting was unjustified,” said Richard Adams, Seth Adams’ father. “Our work here is not done and we hope that, through the criminal process, Sgt. Custer will be held responsible for killing our son.”

The announcement came the day before the five-year anniversary after Adams, 24, was shot three times in the parking lot of the Loxahatchee Groves nursery where he worked and lived.

“It’s been five years … since Seth died,” his mother Lydia Adams said. “I miss my boy. We’ve been given a life sentence to grieve his loss and all the things we have no idea of what would have been.”

A mistrial was declared on March 15 following a month long trial over the family’s $20 million wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office and Custer, who fired the shots that killed Adams.

After about 15 hours of deliberation, the jury couldn’t unanimously agree on whether Custer violated Adams' civil rights by using excessive or unreasonable force — and if so, whether the Sheriff's Office also should be held liable.

Attorneys for Adams family have said there was just one juror who refused to agree with the family that Custer’s use of deadly force was unjustified.

During the trial, Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley criticized the Sheriff’s Office for its handling of the shooting investigation, calling it a “disgrace” and listing deficiencies he considered “simply shocking.”

Some of the problems Hurley mentioned — outside of the presence of the jury — were investigators not taking Custer’s boots into evidence, failing to measure the distance between Custer's SUV and Adams' truck, and also not asking Custer to show how he held the gun when he fired.

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