WATCH: Police Officer is Fired After Fatal Shooting of South Carolina Teenager

SEPT. 6, 2016

A South Carolina police lieutenant who fatally shot a 19-year-old man during an attempted drug arrest in a Hardee’s parking lot last year has been fired from his job, the police chief said. The officer contended that he was acting in self-defense when the suspect drove a car toward him.

John Covington, the chief of the police in Seneca, S.C., said in an emailed statement on Monday that Lt. Mark Tiller had been terminated from his position on the force.

In the statement, which was sent over the weekend to local media including The State newspaper, Chief Covington gave no reason for the termination and declined to answer further questions on what he called a personnel matter.

The lieutenant’s final day on the payroll will be Sept. 9, he said.

Lt. Tiller had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, which took place on July 26, 2015, during a sting operation targeting a 19-year-old man, Zachary Hammond, and a female companion. Police officers suspected a drug deal, and Lt. Tiller used his patrol car to block Mr. Hammond’s vehicle when he pulled into a Hardee’s parking lot.

According to an Oconee County coroner’s report, Lt. Tiller then “felt threatened” as Mr. Hammond drove his car toward him. The officer fired two shots through the open window on the driver’s side, striking Mr. Hammond once in the shoulder and once fatally in the chest, the report said.

Prosecutors declined to press charges against Lt. Tiller, saying a dashboard video of the shooting supported his contention that he believed he was going to be run over.

The officer, who had not faced any disciplinary action since he started working with the Seneca police in 2010, was put on leave while under investigation by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.

The video elevated the shooting in Seneca, a town of about 8,000 people in the northwest part of the state, into the national debate about police conduct that spread after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014. Unlike that case, in which a white policeman killed an unarmed black man, both the officer and Mr. Hammond were white.

Even so, supporters said the case was yet another example of questionable police behavior that had shaken communities around the country.

The Seneca case also rejuvenated calls for police to wear body cameras, and the department was criticized for letting the situation evolve from an effort to trap his companion into selling a small amount of marijuana.

A lawyer for Lt. Tiller, John M. Mussetto, said the department had been “very tight lipped” about the reasons for his client’s termination from the force and said it made “no sense” after the state determined there was no basis to press criminal charges.

“After many years of service in law enforcement, it is unfortunate that Lt. Tiller was given such short notice,” he said. “Lt. Tiller looks forward the day when he can share his account of the unfortunate July 2015 incident.”

Eric S. Bland, a lawyer for the Hammond family, had urged the news media to treat the killing of Mr. Hammond as they had shootings of unarmed black men.

On Saturday, after the termnation was first announced, Mr. Bland said Chief Covington’s decision was “admirable.”

“As one would suspect, the last year has been extremely difficult for the Hammond Family,” he said in an email.

“One of the nagging questions for the Hammond Family was how could Lt. Tiller remain employed after Chief Covington and the City Administration saw the video of Zachary’s killing,” he said. “Today, that question was answered.”

In March this year, the Hammond family agreed to a $2.15 million settlement to drop their lawsuit against the police.


If you haven't already, be sure to like our Filming Cops Page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Please visit our sister site Smokers ONLY

Sign Up To Receive Your Free E-Book
‘Advanced Strategies On Filming Police’

About author

Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

You might also like