Sherwood Custer is a New York Police Department officer. He was precinct captain of the Seventh Precinct and led the official investigation during the Surgeon Copycat Killings. Unfortunately, Custer proved to be a sloppy, ineffective investigator. His arrest of New York Museum vice president Roger Brisbane III, soon proven innocent, led to him being removed from his post and demoted.
Appearance and Mannerisms
Custer was an overweight, pompous petty bureaucrat. He relished the power he had over his subordinates and took pleasure in keeping them waiting for appointments. He appeared to have built his career on staying out of the spotlight, and was by his own admission, more of an administrator than a detective.
Custer placed great importance on personal recognition. The walls of his office were lined with plaques and trophies. He also kept a velvet painting of a cabin in a swamp, which was universally regarded as tacky.
Off-duty, Custer enjoyed bowling. He was fond of a deli called Dilly's, which served enormous corned beef and swiss on rye sandwiches.
Custer was not well-liked by the men in his precinct. Patrick O'Shaughnessy found him laughable and somewhat pathetic. Custer's personal assistant, Sergeant Noyes, appears to have been the only exception. O'Shaughnessy described him as "numero uno ass-kisser".
Custer disliked O'Shaughnessy, who he considered a "wise ass". He made light of his extremely Irish name and called him "Paddy" and "the last Irish cop on the force". He held O'Shaughnessy's previous internal affairs bust over his head and regularly assigned him the least desirable tasks.
Custer was first seen leading the police team sent to investigate the remains found at the Moegen-Fairhaven Construction Site on Catherine Street in Lower Manhattan. He was under orders to wrap up the investigation quickly, as site owner Anthony Fairhaven was a major contributor to the mayor's reelection campaign. When Agent Pendergast and Nora Kelly arrived, Custer tried to block them from entering, only relenting when Pendergast pretended to call the police commissioner. At Custer's direction, the bodies were hastily removed from the site and taken to the Medical Examiner's Office, before the area could be declared a protected archaeological site, delaying construction further.
Back at the Seventh Precinct, Custer called sergeant Patrick O'Shaughnessy into his office and assigned him to be the liaison officer to Special Agent Pendergast. He ordered O'Shaughnessy to be helpful, but not too helpful, and to inform him of all of Pendergast's movements.
O'Shaughnessy did as ordered and filed a report, which Custer did not read. Later, after Bill Smithback of the New York Times published an article about the case, Custer hauled O'Shaughnessy into his office and dressed him down for not keeping his informed. After O'Shaughnessy pointed out that everything was in the report, Custer was forced to back down, but ordered O'Shaughnessy to stay away from Pendergast.
When a series of copycat killings began in the wake of the article, Custer found himself tapped to lead the investigation. He was initially annoyed by the assignment, as he was not a homicide detective, but he soon became wrapped up in the case. He dreamed of being renowned as the detective who brought "the Surgeon" to justice.
O'Shaughnessy continued to moonlight for Pendergast, even after Custer ordered him to stay away. Custer was unaware of this until he received an angry phone call from Commissioner Rocker, asking him why O'Shaughnessy was requesting medical examiner's reports about the bodies found at Catherine Street. Custer, caught off guard, told the commissioner that he had authorized O'Shaughnessy to pull the reports for their files, saying "We do things by the book, sir." Rocker angrily explained to Custer that having the report in precinct greatly increased the chances that it would be leaked to the press, and ordered him to round up every copy and send them back to One Police Plaza.
Soon afterward, Custer was pulled deeper into the scandal when O'Shaughnessy and Nora Kelly uncovered another 19th-century crime scene at 99 Doyers Street. O'Shaughnessy called for backup, and Custer was forced to admit to the commissioner that he had not been properly supervising his man. To his great surprise, Rocker did not punish him. He explained that the discovery of more old murders pulled the media's attention away from the copycat killer, and the mayor was very pleased with the situation. He officially put Custer in charge of the Surgeon case, telling him to work quickly while the media was distracted, and before another killing occurred.
Back at the precinct, Custer pulled O'Shaughnessy into his office. When he learned that O'Shaughnessy had given the ME's report to Pendergast, he put him on administrative leave and threatened to start another Internal Affairs investigation into his conduct. O'Shaughnessy put his gun and badge on Custer's desk and left, knowing that his NYPD career was at an end.
After a museum employee, Reinhart Puck, was found murdered in the museum archives, the media frenzy began anew. With pressure mounting from the Commissioner and the mayor, Custer decided he had to act quickly. He determined that the museum was the connection between all the cases, and surmised that the killer might even be a museum employee. He ordered a raid on the museum and forced all the employees to stay after hours for questioning while his men searched the archives.
Custer decided that he was a natural homicide detective. He focused his attention on Roger Brisbane III, the museum's first vice president and general counsel. When Brisbane arrived at the museum, angry that the police were tearing apart the archives in their search, Custer pulled him into his office for questioning. He interrogated Brisbane at length, until he found a black derby hat, coat and umbrella in Brisbane's office. Satisfied that he had his murderer, Custer arrested Brisbane.
Custer, Rocker, the mayor, and museum director Collopy held a triumphant press conference at which it was announced that Brisbane was the killer. Custer told the press that no murder weapon had been found, and that Brisbane's apartment and summer house would be searched.
Unfortunately for Custer, his instincts were entirely wrong. The search turned up nothing, and the clothes found in Brisbane's office were props from a fundraiser costume party. Brisbane's lawyer quickly produced alibis for the times of all three murders and he was released the day after his arrest. Custer was severely reprimanded, removed from his post, and "busted down to street cop".