The family of Zachary Hammond settled its wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Seneca for $2.15 million, more than eight months after the teenager was shot and killed by a Seneca police officer, the family’s attorney said Tuesday.
The settlement doesn’t admit fault on the part of the city, the police chief or the officer who shot and killed the 19-year-old in an attempted drug bust, but it sends “a loud signal” about its police procedures, Eric Bland, who represented the family said.
“I think there should be lessons learned from all concerned, how confrontations with unarmed citizens should take place,” Bland told The Greenville News.
“I think there’s a message being sent to a lot of people who said this was a good shooting and nothing was done wrong,” he said.
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Angie Hammond, the slain teenager’s mother, said she and her husband, Paul, would reserve comment until Wednesday, when the family will speak at a press conference in Greenville.
Seneca Mayor Dan Alexander and Police Chief John Covington couldn’t be reached for comment. Lt. Mark Tiller, the officer who shot Hammond, has been on administrative leave since the incident.
Bland said the city will pay $250,000 and the state will cover the remainder of the settlement.
A criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice is continuing, according to court documents.
“There will be no further legal proceedings between the parties,” a statement issued by Bland said. “Rather than endure a lengthy litigation process, both parties agree that an early resolution will allow a platform for healing for the Hammond family and the city of Seneca that is outside the spotlight of litigation.”
“We’re very happy for the family, obviously, because it’s been a tough road,” he said.
Hammond was shot in the parking lot of Hardee’s on U.S.123 in Seneca last July 26 after a state trooper received a text sent by mistake from young woman offering to sell drugs. The trooper made arrangements for a buy from the woman, who was riding with Hammond.
Tiller was called to the scene to make the arrest, according to the recording of police radio communications.
Tiller’s dash cam recorded his patrol car screeching to a halt behind Hammond’s vehicle and ordering Hammond to get out.
Instead, Hammond began backing up and then began moving forward as Tiller continued to shout and run toward the front of the vehicle. He fired twice at nearly point blank range into the open driver’s side window.
He told investigators he believed Hammond was trying to run over him.
The State Law Enforcement Division investigated the case and turned its report over to Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams last October. She decided that the incident didn’t meet the standard for prosecution under state law.
The federal investigation continues, with Tiller’s lawyer last week attempting to delay the officer’s deposition in the case for 90 days, saying a federal indictment is possible.