(SENECA, S.C.) — A South Carolina police officer will not face state charges after the deadly shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old, authorities said.
Lt. Mark Tiller of the Seneca Police Department shot and killed Zach Hammond on July 26 during a drug sting targeting his female companion, 23-year-old Tori Diana Morton.
Police initially withheld dashcam video from the incident, but released it Tuesday, one day after a prosecutor declined to press charges in the shooting.
In the video, Tiller can be seen approaching Hammond’s car with his gun drawn, ordering Hammond to stop and show his hands. But Hammond reverses, then begins to drive forward, at which point Tiller fires into the car.
Hammond was shot twice through his driver’s side window. Seconds after the shooting, Tiller is heard saying, “He tried to hit me.”
Shortly after the encounter that left their son dead, Hammond’s parents told ABC News they hoped the officer would be charged with murder.
All along, local police have blamed Hammond, saying he tried to run the officer over with his car and calling it “attempted murder” in the official police report.
Local prosecutor Chrissy T. Adams explained her decision not to press charges in a letter to state law enforcement officials.
“The video viewed at full speed, standing alone, is troublesome,” Adams states in her letter. But she goes on to say that the “video shows Tiller’s feet going underneath the car at the approximate time the shots are fired,” adding that “the car accelerated with such force that a concrete curb was damaged.”
Adams also said Hammond was found to have had cocaine and other drugs in his system, which the toxicology report says he used within six hours of the shooting. Cocaine was found in the pocket of Hammond’s shorts, she said, and marijuana was found in his car.
“The evidence from this investigation corroborates and supports Lieutenant 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,” Adams writes.
However, Adams does criticize Tiller’s actions, saying it had been “improper” of him to have run up to the car, rather than stay behind the door of his own patrol vehicle. The result of that decision, she suggests, is that “control of the situation was lost.”
Adams also notes that federal officials are still reviewing the case to “determine if any federal charges, not available under State law, would be appropriate.”
The U.S. Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting in August. That investigation is ongoing.
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