The parents of a teenager shot by police, along with their lawyers, say Solicitor Chrissy Adams made the wrong decision in whether to file charges against an officer in the fatal encounter.
Based on the evidence, specifically a police dash cam video, they said authorities should have filed charges against Lt. Mark Tiller in connection with the deadly shooting of 19-year-old Zachary Hammond this summer in a Hardee’s parking lot in Seneca.
“From our point of view, she got every conclusion wrong,” attorney Ronnie Richter said Thursday morning at a press conference in downtown Greenville, standing with Zachary Hammond’s parents, Paul and Angie Hammond. “I don’t know how you could possibly conclude from that evidence, objectively, that no crime was committed.”
Authorities have said Hammond was trying to run Tiller over and the officer shot because he felt threatened. The Hammond family contends that Hammond was trying to leave the scene of a drug bust and deadly force was not warranted.
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“This was not even a close decision,” attorney Eric Bland said, adding that there was enough evidence for a charge and to let a jury decide.
Bland said Tiller’s first mistake was in the way he parked his vehicle, by not blocking in Hammond in the parking lot of the Hardee’s. Tiller put himself in the position to be hit by the vehicle and did not show his badge or identify himself, Bland said, as he held up a copy The Greenville News that featured photos of the incident.
“When we saw these photographs and then we got hold of the video and the slowed-down video,” Bland said as he held Wednesday’s edition of The News, “it became obvious that proper police procedures were not followed. Lt. Tiller came in, with his gun drawn, and put himself in a position of danger.”
Angie Hammond, reading from a prepared statement, expressed disappointment in Adams’ ruling.
“We are more disappointed by an investigation that seemed more focused on attacking the victim, which was Zach, than investigating the shooter,” she said. “All the information about my son in the file is all completely irrelevant because Tiller didn’t know any of this when he shot my son. Tiller didn’t even know who he was.”
Adams, in a letter to SLED, detailed text messages from Zachary Hammond’s phone saying he had avoided several police checkpoints in previous weeks. Adams also referenced Hammonds’ text messages in which he compared himself to an “animal” and “outlaw.”
Adams said case law shows a suspect’s state of mind can be taken into account in determining whether the officer’s actions are justified, even if the officer isn’t aware of the state of mind of the suspect at the time of an incident.
Bland said he feels that Adams’ argument wouldn’t hold up in court, adding “most likely a judge would rule that it would be irrelevant and too highly prejudicial.”
“She’s supposed to look at the actions of the police officer and what would an objective reasonable police officer have done under those circumstances,” Bland said.
A federal investigation into the case is ongoing.
Staff writer Ron Barnett contributed.