The parents of a 19-year-old who was shot and killed by a Seneca police officer during an attempted July drug bust say they are angry that no charges were filed against the officer.
The parents of Zachary Hammond said in a Thursday press conference that they believe 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams was wrong in not filing charges against Lt. Mark Tiller. Adams announced Tuesday that her office would not be filing charges against Tiller after a State Law Enforcement Division investigation.
The officer had said he felt his life was in danger because Hammond tried to flee the July 26 stop by driving towards him. Dashcam video released this week appears to show Hammond trying to leave the scene as Tiller approaches the car. However the teen’s parents say the officer never appears to be in danger, and argue Tiller placed himself in danger by approaching the front of the vehicle as Hammond tried to leave.
Paul Hammond said he wants to personally review the evidence, particularly the dashcam video, with SLED Chief Mark Keel and investigating agent Capt. Robbie Hendrix. “I want them… to show me where that officer was in danger,” “I want them to look me in the eye and tell me themselves that they believe in this.”
The video shows the entire encounter lasting less than 30 seconds. On Tiller’s dashcam video, the officer pulls up behind Hammond’s car and Tiller gets out with his handgun drawn, yelling “Hands up! Put them up!” Tiller then switches his commands to “Stop! Stop! Stop!” as the car starts to back up. Hammond switches the car into drive as Tiller moves towards the driver’s side window. Tiller braces his arm against the side-view mirror and backs up as the car rolls forward, yelling “I will shoot!” The car does not stop and Tiller fires two shots. The entire incident lasted only four seconds from Tiller’s first command to the shots fired.
In her letter to SLED, Adams argued that whether or not Lt. Tiller was actually in danger is irrelevant so long as he had reasonable belief that his life was at risk. “As far as criminal responsibility is concerned, the question is not did Lt. Tiller have to fire his weapon. The question is not would Lt. Tiller have been killed if he had not fired his weapon. Those are not the legal standard for criminal charges,” she wrote. Adams also said the law does not allow her to “Monday morning quarterback” the officer’s decision.
Zach’s mother Angie Hammond also responded to the solicitor’s report — which noted that Hammond had cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time and had fled from a Clemson Police checkpoint a month earlier.
“We are more disappointed by an investigation that seemed more focused on attacking the victim, which was Zach, than investigating the shooter,” she said, reading from a prepared statement. “All the information about my son in the file is all completely irrelevant because Tiller didn’t know any of this when he shot my son. Tiller didn’t even know who he was.”
The family’s attorney Eric Bland is asking for State Attorney General Alan Wilson to reopen the case. A federal civil rights investigation into the case is also ongoing.
Ed Jenson of Greenville affiliate WYRD contributed to this report