By Alexandra Seltzer Palm Beach Post LOXAHATCHEE GROVES, Fla. — His body riddled with bullets fired by an undercover Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy, Seth Adams was clinging to life as he crawled across a darkened parking lot for help, an attorney representing Adams' family said Thursday.
West Palm Beach attorney Valentin Rodriguez told The Palm Beach Post that instead of trying to stop the 24-year-old Loxahatchee Groves man from bleeding to death, deputies tackled his brother, David Adams, who ran out of the family trailer on A Road to rescue him.
"He could have been saved," Rodriguez told the Post after meeting with the family Thursday. "This was complete disregard for his medical care. These weren't shots to kill. You're supposed to render aid."
Sometime after 11:30 p.m. on May 16, Seth Adams called his brother to say he had been "shot by a cop," Rodriguez said.
David Adams, who was in the family trailer with his wife only hundreds of feet away, didn't think his younger brother was serious. But Seth Adams immediately called again, and crawled toward his brother for help. David Adams took Seth seriously this time, and ran out to find him on the ground somewhere between the family's trailer and the parking lot of their A One Stop Garden Shop, where the shots were fired.
A Palm Beach County sheriff's spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday on what transpired after sheriff's Sgt. Michael Custer — a 14-year veteran of the department — fired multiple bullets into Seth Adams that night, citing an open investigation into the fatal shooting.
While sheriff's officials have yet to reveal the number of shots Custer fired at Adams, his family claims he was shot at least four times.
That night, Custer called for backup and paramedics were notified but exact times of phone calls also have not been released.
Rodriguez said sheriff's cars were blocking the intersection, preventing paramedics from quickly giving aid to Adams.
Those details are some of the many Rodriguez says he is trying to iron out while he works with the family in preparing to file a civil lawsuit.
Rodriguez called it "bizarre" that Custer would let Adams crawl on the ground without administering CPR or putting him into handcuffs if he felt threatened as he claimed.
If someone had helped Adams faster, he could have been saved, Rodriguez told the Post. "Once you shoot him, the threat's over," he said. "You should follow up on the guy."
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said a few days after the shooting that Adams came home that night and found Custer conducting undercover surveillance.
A struggle ensued between them, causing Custer to be in fear for his life thinking Adams was armed.
The shooting was justified, Bradshaw said, and he warned anyone who assaults an officer: the deputy has the right to shoot.
Adams, who was not armed, was flown to St. Mary's Medical Center and died hours later.
In the aftermath of the shooting, a public outcry has led to an online petition with nearly 3,000 signees on Change.org calling for "a fair investigation."
Meanwhile, Custer has been placed on administrative leave and the sheriff's office continues to investigate the shooting before handing it over to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.
Rodriguez also raised questions Thursday about what Custer was surveilling as he sat in the parking lot before the shooting, since the intersection of A Road and Okeechobee Boulevard is not heavily populated.
Sheriff's authorities have repeatedly declined to comment on that, saying it is not public record.
"I suspect it's a ruse," Rodriguez charged.
Although the business' parking lot has signs saying "Smile you're on camera," the surveillance cameras were not activated at the time.
But Rodriguez hopes other evidence will help detail the shooting — such as 911 calls, autopsy reports, dispatch reports and conversations with paramedics.
He said Adams was alive while in the ambulance and had some type of conversation with paramedics, and he hopes to hear what that conversation entailed.
"We're extremely concerned," he said. "It's a tragedy all around."
Copyright 2012 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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