South Carolina police officer Lieutenant Mark Tiller, who killed Zachary Hammond on July 26 because the 19-year-old drove a car at him, will not face criminal charges despite a disturbing dashboard video recording showing that Hammond was shot from the side as he passed.
Justifying the deadly force, Tenth circuit solicitor Chrissy Adams on October 27 said that while the video was “troublesome” and “raised questions”, evidence from an inquiry by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division supported Tiller’s claim that he believed he was about to be run over.
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Posted by ATTN: on Tuesday, October 27, 2015
“Zachary Hammond failed to comply with Lt Tiller’s orders and as a result he lost his life. When Hammond made the conscious decision to flee a lawful stop he set in motion this tragic chain of events,” said Adams adding while Tiller violated protocol by approaching Hammond’s car rather than staying behind his own car door, it does not constitute a criminal violation.
“After careful consideration of the facts of the case, a thorough review of the state investigation, and an extensive review of all applicable law, I have determined that no criminal charges should be filed against Lt. Mark Tiller at the state level,” Adams said in a statement.
A small amount of marijuana was found on Morton, while a small amount of cocaine and other drugs was found on Hammond, according to Seneca police. Morton was charged with misdemeanor drug possession.
A lawsuit filed by Hammond’s family gives a detailed account of what had happened on that fateful day.
Hammond was killed after taking Tori Morton on a first date. The couple got ice cream at McDonald’s, then drove to Hardee’s so Hammond could get a hamburger. Seneca police were waiting at the Hardee’s after an undercover officer arranged a pot deal with Morton.
Tiller pulled up to Hammond’s parked car from behind, got out of the patrol car, and drew his gun. As Tiller approached Hammond’s side door, Hammond attempted to drive away. Less than six seconds after exiting his patrol car, Tiller fires two shot killing Hammond.
After paramedics determined Hammond was dead, his body was left on the ground for 90 minutes where it was bitten and stung by ants. A second officer gave the lifeless teen’s body a high-five sometime after other investigators arrived.
All along, Seneca Police Department blamed Hammond, saying he tried to run the officer over with his car and calling it “attempted murder” in the official police report.
The video footage, however, contradicts Tiller’s account of the shooting. In the video, Tiller can be heard saying “Stop, stop, stop… I’m gonna shoot your f***ing ass” as an unarmed Hammond tries to drive off. The footage apparently shows Tiller shooting from the side of the vehicle. The teen’s family said a private autopsy found Hammond was shot in the side and back, showing his car was already past Tiller and was no longer a threat to the officer when he fired.
“I think they’re grabbing pretty hard saying that Zach was trying to run over the officer. It didn’t look like that in the video to me. He’s running beside the car. If anything he put himself in that position. To me it was very sloppy police work,” Zachary Hammond’ father Paul Hammond told The Greenville News.
Eric Bland, attorney for the Hammond family, said the video clearly shows that Tiller was not in danger of being run over when he fired the fatal shot and said federal charges of civil rights violations could still be forthcoming. “We’re going forward on our civil suit at this point. It’s just a sad day to see an unarmed kid who was shot unnecessarily by excessive force where it clearly violated all the police policies. This was just a traffic stop at the time,” he said.
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