Lieutenant Mark Tiller
No state charges will be filed against a Seneca police officer who killed Zachary Hammond in an undercover drug operation in July.
The decision was made by Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams. Adams’ decision comes in the wake of the shooting death of Hammond, 19, who was shot twice inside his car in a Hardee’s parking lot on July 26.
Adams said in a statement:
“I have completed my review of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED) investigation into the shooting death of Zachary Hammond on July 26, 2015 in Seneca, South Carolina. 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. I met with the Hammond family today and have informed them of this decision.”
Adams said a letter about her decision and request to close the state’s case has been forwarded to SLED.
According to media reports, at the request of U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles, Adams said she would not release additional information while federal authorities make their charging determination.
Federal investigators began investigating the shooting back in August after the attorney for the Hammond family sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Corney requesting a civil rights investigation.
Lawyers for Hammond’s family said an autopsy showed that he was shot in the back, but the officer said that he shot Hammond in self defense.
Lieutenant Mark Tiller claims Hammond drove at him during an undercover drug operation. Tiller is now on administrative leave.
Tiller’s attorney John Mussetto released the following statement on behalf of his client in the wake of Adams’ decision to not press charges against him, reading quote:
“Lt. Tiller agrees with the outcome of the investigation. As stated from day one, Lt. Tiller acted in self-defense and the decision today supports this position.”
In a letter to the media on Aug. 5, attorneys representing Hammond’s family raised questions after Seneca Police Chief Covington did not immediately release Tiller’s name and claimed that authorities, including Adams and SLED had not been provided information about the incident.
SLED released the dashcam video of the shooting on Tuesday Oct. 27 as part of a FOIA request by FOX Carolina.
Hammond’s father, Paul Hammond, said Tuesday that it’s wrong that his son was killed. Watch the Hammonds and their attorney respond to Adams’ decision here.
Lawyers said they agree with the findings, but a federal case and charges pending.
earlier in October, Hammond’s family filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to have S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson remove Adams from the Hammond case due to what attorneys cited as numerous conflicts of interest, including comments that she has reportedly made in court and because a case involves a law enforcement member within her judicial circuit. The high court later issued a decision denying that request.
The Hammonds have also filed a civil lawsuit against the Seneca Police Department and Tiller.
City responds to solicitor’s decision
After Adams’ announcement, Seneca City Administrator Greg Dietterick said in a statement that it was time for Seneca to begin to heal.
“The past three months have been extremely difficult for the residents of Seneca, its city employees and the 45 members of its police force. While the effects of outside agitators to tear apart our community lingers, we are thankful the investigation has come to an end and shows Lt. Tiller was acting in self-defense,” Dietterick said.
He called the night a “tragic event” for the community, saying that he grieved for the Hammond family and added thanks for “the hard work of the local and state investigators who handled the cases expertly and professionally.
Dietterick expressed appreciation to Adams, Seneca Police Chief John Covington and other city officials.
“It is now time to start healing Seneca,” Dietterick said.