State Attorney General Alan Wilson has turned down a lawmaker’s request to intervene in the Zachary Hammond police shooting case, saying that to do so would create “a chaotic situation in the criminal justice system.”
State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, had asked the attorney general to step in after 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams decided not to bring charges against Seneca Police Lt. Mark Tiller in the death of the 19-year-old in an attempted drug bust in the parking lot of a Hardee’s July 26.
A dash cam video released on the day she made her decision in October showed Tiller running alongside Hammond’s car and shooting into the driver’s side window as Hammond attempted to drive away.
Tiller said he thought Hammond was trying to run over him.
“As you know, the solicitors are elected by the voters in their respective circuits to make decisions involving criminal prosecutions,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Rutherford. “While it is true that I am the chief prosecutor in this state, it would create a dangerous precedent if this office were to begin reviewing the decisions of the 16 circuit solicitors.
“The office of the attorney general cannot be put in the position of second guessing every controversial prosecution decision made by a solicitor.”
The fact that the solicitor already made a decision in the case also makes it “virtually impossible” for another prosecutor to make a different decision and prosecute the case, Wilson wrote.
“There can be but one prosecutor,” he wrote.
Adams, in a letter to the State Law Enforcement Division explaining her decision, said the evidence in the case didn’t meet the standard for prosecution, in part because of the split-second nature of Tiller’s decision to shoot.
Wilson said he could find no precedent for the attorney general’s office to review prosecutorial decisions made by circuit solicitors, and cited two previous attorney general opinions against second-guessing solicitors.
He had made similar arguments against his office getting involved when the family asked the state Supreme Court to turn the case over to him. The Supreme Court ruled that the family didn't have the legal right to make such a request.
“We understand the Hammond family’s grief for the loss of a son,” Wilson wrote to Rutherford. “However, the family is not without a remedy.”
He noted that the family had filed a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court and that federal authorities are investigating the case for possible criminal and civil rights violations.
Tiller has been on administrative leave since the shooting and will remain so until the federal probes are complete, Seneca officials have said.