Zachary Hammond turned toward his date in stunned disbelief after the first shot and stared at her when the second and fatal shot rang out from a Seneca police lieutenant's handgun, according to a federal lawsuit that alleges the 19-year-old was killed by a "misguided and improperly trained" law enforcement officer.
"I'll blow your f------ head off," were the last words Hammond heard as Lt. Mark Tiller yelled into the open driver's side window of Hammond's 2002 Silver Honda Civic in the parking lot of a Hardee's restaurant on July 26, 2015, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit, filed in the Anderson division of U.S. District Court by Hammond's parents, alleges the teen was unarmed and killed as part of a drug sting that went horribly wrong.
Named as defendants are the Seneca Police Department, Police Chief John Covington and Tiller.
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None could be reached for comment. Tiller has said he fired in self-defense, believing Hammond was trying to run over him with his car.
According to the lawsuit:
▪ About 8:10 p.m., Hammond pulled into the Hardee's where he intended to buy a hamburger and get napkins for his date, whose ice cream was melting.
▪ As Hammond drove around the rear of the restaurant, Seneca police attempted to block his vehicle. Tiller then ran, screaming and his gun drawn, toward Hammond's car.
▪ Within seconds, Tiller fired two shots into the open driver's side window. Both struck Hammond.
▪ Hammond's date had a small amount of marijuana and was charged.
▪ An eyewitness said that after the shooting and after Tiller pulled Hammond's body from the car, the police officer walked to the back of his patrol vehicle and opened the trunk. Tiller returned to Hammond's body, rolled it over and placed "something" on it. The officer then rolled the body back to its original position.
▪ Hammond was left uncovered and unprotected on the restaurant's asphalt parking lot for 90 minutes during the investigation that followed the shooting.
▪ No gun was found in Hammond's car.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges Tiller used excessive force in killing Hammond. It also alleges Seneca police were negligent in hiring, training and supervising the department's officers.
The Hammonds previously filed a plea with the state Supreme Court asking that it take the case out of the hands of 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams and turn it over to state Attorney General Alan Wilson for him to give to another prosecutor or handle within his office.
The pleading argued that Adams has a conflict of interest because of statements she allegedly made regarding a Family Court case and because of her close working relationship with the Seneca Police Department. The family sought a high court ruling that would take all prosecutors in the state off cases in which they would decide whether to lodge criminal charges against law enforcement officers within their jurisdiction.
Wilson later rebuffed the request, saying it had no legal standing and would require the Legislature to change the law pertaining to prosecution of criminal cases.
The Greenville News and other media have asked the State Law Enforcement Division to release video of the incident shot from a police vehicle on the scene, but SLED has refused, saying to do so now could harm the investigation.
SLED has turned the video and its report over to Adams, who said she is waiting for information from federal investigators before making a decision.
State Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he plans to introduce a bill that would require law enforcement and prosecutors to get a judge’s approval before withholding police videos beyond the 15 working days allowed under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Staff writer Ron Barnett contributed.