February 23, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH — When Seth Adams called his brother and sister-in-law in May 2012 to tell them he’d been shot by a cop, they hung up on him, thinking he was playing a joke.

The 24-year-old called back and they ran outside to find him clinging to life after being shot by Palm Beach County sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Custer in the parking lot of One Stop Garden Shop in Loxahatchee Groves, where the three family members lived and worked. Grabbing his brother’s phone, David Adams, ran to find help.

Ordered by gun-wielding sheriff’s deputies to get on the ground, David Adams dropped the phone near his brother’s pickup truck.

Former detective Christopher Neuman, who led the sheriff’s investigation into the fatal shooting, told a federal jury the tale on Wednesday to explain how Adams’ cell phone ended up on the passenger side of Adams’ truck. Other evidence — a bullet fragment, four shell casings and blood — ended up on the driver’s side of Adams’ truck.

Cell phones — or the lack of one — loom large in the trial to decide a multi-million-dollar wrongful death lawsuit Seth Adams’ parents filed against Custer and the sheriff’s office.

The department-issued cell phone Custer had at the plant nursery was never taken into evidence. Attorney Wallace McCall, who is representing Adams’ Palm Bay parents, says the disappearance of that phone underscores his claim that the sheriff’s office covered up what really happened at the nursery on Okeechobee Boulevard and A Road.

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