No charges will be filed against the officer who fatally shot Seneca teen Zachary Hammond, said Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams on Tuesday.
Adams said she met with Hammond's family Tuesday to inform them of the decision. Seneca Police Lt. Mark Tiller shot and killed Hammond in an attempted marijuana bust in the parking lot of Hardee’s on U.S. 123 in Seneca. The officer said he shot Hammond because he feared the teenager was trying to run over him with his car.
"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.
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.
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“We’re going forward on our civil suit at this point,” he said.
“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,” Bland said. “This was just a traffic stop at the time.”
Adams, in a letter to the State Law Enforcement Division, said, "The video viewed at full speed, standing alone, is troublesome. However, when the video and the totality of the investigation is evaluated and the laws of our State are applied, it is clear that Lt. Tiller broke no State laws.
"The evidence from this investigation corroborates and supports Lt. Tiller's belief that he was going to be run over. Therefore, the only conclusion that can be rendered is that deadly force was justified."
Toxicology reports showed that Hammond had drugs in his system at the time, Bland said, but he wouldn’t comment on what type or amount. Adams said in a letter to SLED that Hammond tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, and both drugs were found in the car packaged as if for sale.
Adams said she will not be releasing any additional information about the federal investigation. Attorneys for Hammond’s parents asked federal authorities to investigate the shooting death of their son because of what they called “the substantial violations of his civil rights.”
SLED released case files and videos today in response to Freedom of Information requests filed by The Greenville News and other media.
In a letter to SLED outlining her reasons for not charging Tiller, Adams said the incident began when Tori Morton, who was with Hammond that night, sent a text message offering to sell cocaine and marijuana that accidentally went to a Highway Patrol officer, who contacted the Seneca Police Department.
Seneca City Administrator Greg Dietterick released the following statement:
"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.
"The night of July 26 was a tragic event for this community and I personally will always grieve for the Hammond family. I would like to thank the hard work of the local and state investigators who handled the cases expertly and professionally. I would like to thank Solicitor Adams, who suffered numerous personal attacks, for her diligence.
"I thank Chief John Covington for his courage and strength during these trying times as he and his family have been repeatedly maligned. I thank our Mayor and City Council for standing with us during this tragedy. It is now time to start healing Seneca".