After seeing for the first time Tuesday a graphic video of his son being shot to death by a Seneca police officer yelling, "I'm gonna shoot your f---ing a--," Paul Hammond said his family plans to "keep fighting" for justice for Zachary.
It was a video that law enforcement and judicial authorities had refused to release for three months, and which 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams admitted Tuesday is "troublesome" and "demands answers."
However, after reviewing the dash cam footage in slow motion and frame by frame, she decided not to file criminal charges against Lt. Mark Tiller, concluding that he was justified in firing on the unarmed 19-year-old to protect himself and others from being run over by Hammond's car.
It didn't look that way to Paul Hammond.
"I think they’re grabbing pretty hard saying that Zach was trying to run over the officer. It didn’t look like that in the video to me,” he told The Greenville News. “He’s running beside the car. If anything he put himself in that position. To me it was very sloppy police work.”
“We hope to get some kind of justice somewhere, really," Hammond said. "We just don’t feel like it was a lawful shooting.”
The video -- which had been sought by The Greenville News and other media under Freedom of Information Act requests -- shows Tiller pulling into the parking lot of Hardee's restaurant, accelerating and screeching to a halt behind Hammond's silver Honda Civic. An undercover officer's vehicle is parked beside Hammond's, and its door pops open as Tiller jumps into the scene shouting, “Hands up, put ‘em up!"
As the Honda begins to move in reverse, Tiller yells, "Stop! stop!" Then an expletive, and shots are fired.
It was all over in five seconds.
"He tried to hit me," Tiller can be heard saying.
Adams released a statement Tuesday saying she found no justification for state charges against Tiller. However, a federal investigation into the case continues.
Tiller remained on administrative leave Tuesday and no timetable had been set for a return to active duty, according to a city spokesman.
Tiller violated proper police procedures in running up to Hammond's car rather than staying back behind his own car door while he attempted to make an arrest, but that doesn't constitute a criminal violation, Adams said in a letter to the State Law Enforcement Division, which investigated the shooting.
But Hammond's father said a video of the incident released Tuesday clearly shows that the officer was not in danger of being run over by his son's car as police claim.
The family plans to go forward with a civil lawsuit filed in federal court and hopes that federal authorities who are conducting an independent investigation will bring charges in the case.
“All we can do is keep continuing to try to do something," he said. "But the worst thing about this whole thing is it’s not going to bring our son back, and it's torture on all of us.
"But we’ve got to keep on.”
He also expressed concern that the officer, Tiller, could be back on the street, "and I think that's a danger myself," he said.
Solicitor Adams asked SLED to work with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy to better train officers how to handle such situations.
Experts with the Criminal Justice Academy and Solicitor Kevin Brackett of York and Union counties agreed with her assessment that no criminal charges were warranted, she said in the letter.
Adams said she met with Hammond's family Tuesday to inform them of the decision. Tiller shot and killed Hammond in an attempted drug bust in the parking lot of Hardee’s on U.S. 123 in Seneca.
"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.
“We’re going forward on our civil suit at this point,” he confirmed.
“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.”