The Latest: Solicitor Says Teen Had No Intention of Stopping

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cop who shot unarmed teen out on date not charged.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — No criminal charges will be filed in South Carolina against a police officer who fatally shot a 19-year-old during a drug sting, a state prosecutor announced Tuesday, but the U.S. Lieutenant Mark Tiller of Seneca police, who said he killed Zachary Hammond because the 19-year-old drove a car at the officer and his patrol vehicle, was cleared despite a dashboard recording showing that Hammond was shot from the side as he passed. Tenth circuit solicitor Chrissy Adams said that while the video was “troublesome” and “raised questions”, evidence from an inquiry by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (Sled) supported Tiller’s claim that he believed he was about to be run over, meaning “deadly force was justified”. “Zachary Hammond failed to comply with Lt Tiller’s orders and as a result he lost his life,” said Adams, in a letter to Sled investigators. “When Hammond made the conscious decision to flee a lawful stop he set in motion this tragic chain of events.” Adams disclosed in her letter that an attempted drug deal that led to Hammond’s death took place only because Hammond’s female passenger, Tori Morton, accidentally sent a text message from Hammond’s phone to a state trooper whose number was one digit different from her intended buyer’s. Police told the trooper to play along and set up a meeting to buy marijuana and cocaine later that day in the parking lot of a local Hardee’s restaurant. She made the announcement after meeting with the family of Zachary Hammond, who was killed in the July 26 confrontation in a fast-food restaurant parking lot.

After arriving and buying ice cream at McDonald’s, Hammond and Morton parked their Honda Civic beside an undercover police officer. “i think im beside u lol,” Morton said in a final text message, which was among a batch released on Tuesday. Department of Justice also is investigating, and Adams said she won’t release additional information while those federal authorities decide whether they’ll bring charges against Tiller.

Dashcam video, when viewed at full speed, is troublesome, but the investigation shows Tiller broke no state laws, Adams wrote in an eight-page letter to the State Law Enforcement Agency. Ronald Richter Jr., an attorney for Hammond’s family, said the family respects Adams’ work, but “we completely disagree with the decision not to go forward.” At the meeting, the family and attorneys for the first time saw the dashcam video of the shooting, Richter said. “It was very painful for them to watch that, but for the first time they have a better understanding of what took place,” he told The Associated Press. Hammond, who is white, and a female friend, Tori Morton, were in the Hardee’s parking lot when Tiller’s car, lights flashing, pulled up behind Hammond’s car. Though The Post could not access it immediately, local news stations have posted clips online that show an officer approach a car and shoot as it accelerates away. “The video clearly shows that Lieutenant Tiller came in this situation and escalated it, with the guns drawn and where he positioned himself,” said Eric Bland, a lawyer for the Hammond family. He also said he had run several police checkpoints in previous weeks, including one June 23 in Clemson, S.C., that Clemson city police verified. “Almost every text message deals with Hammond selling drugs to multiple individuals including marijuana, acid, cocaine and prescription pills,” she wrote. “The text messages indicate Hammond was actively evading arrest by flight and evading law enforcement due to his outstanding warrant. “Just four days prior to his death Hammond refers to himself as a ‘criminal’ and says he is ‘Like an animal now,’ ” Adams wrote. “Hammond also talks about being a member of a gang and even goes so far as to say that police will ‘just take me one day.’ ” She prefaced her remarks by citing a court case in which a ruling indicated that even if an officer at the scene isn’t aware of the suspect’s state of mind, it can be taken into account in determining whether an officer’s actions are justified. “As stated from Day One, Lt.

Nine seconds had elapsed since the officer arrived. “He tried to hit me,” Tiller is heard saying out of the dashboard camera’s view. “Rather than abide by this order, Mr Hammond rapidly reversed his vehicle towards Lt Tiller’s patrol vehicle,” said Mussetto. “Mr Hammond then rapidly accelerated in the direction of Lt Tiller, forcing the lieutenant to push off of Mr Hammond’s car to keep from being struck and run over.” The video footage shows Hammond had already begun reversing away from Tiller’s patrol vehicle when the officer made his first order for the 19-year-old to stop. The shooting occurred during an undercover drug operation in July and the Justice Department later announced it was investigating whether the victim’s civil rights were violated. As shown in police dashcam footage released by SLED on Tuesday, Tiller shuffled toward the front of the car as Hammond tried to leave, eventually firing at Hammond as the teen’s drove by.

Morton was not injured in the incident, and was later charged with marijuana possession. “Our focus and our energy now need to be redirected toward training law enforcement officers in our State and ensuring training for situations such as this is offered on a recurring basis.” Tiller’s attorneys have claimed that the officer feared for his life and only fired to protect himself. A lawsuit filed by Hammond’s family claims the teen had taken a woman on a first date before the shooting, then stopped at Hardee’s so he could get a hamburger. Adams said most of the 842 pages of text messages collected from Hammond’s phone dealt with drug sales, including a history of him supplying the woman, his passenger, with drugs. Yet in an attempt to add retrospective justification for Tiller’s decision to shoot, Adams also released extensive allegations about drug dealing by Hammond, along with a detail that he had recently obtained a tattoo of the word “outlaw” on one of his arms.

He was evading arrest on an outstanding warrant at the time, for failure to appear in court, and said in text messages he had no intention of stopping for law enforcement or going to jail, Adams wrote. The family’s lawsuit says that after paramedics determined Hammond was dead, his body was left for 90 minutes on the ground, where it was bitten and stung by ants. Prosecutor Chrissy Adams announced Tuesday that, after reviewing the case file and the law, she will not charge Teller in the shooting death of 19-year-old Zachary Hammond. Greenville attorney John Mussetto said that from the first day, his client has said he acted in self-defense and that Tuesday’s decision supports that position. His family’s attorneys wanted Adams removed from the case because she works closely with local police, but the state Supreme Court rejected the request.

City lawyers have acknowledged that the second officer may have had inappropriate contact with the body, AP reported. “He’s only 19-years-old and the rest of our lives we are going to live with this,” Paul Hammond told RT in early August. “We are never going to be able to celebrate anything again with Zack.

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