COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old man during a drug sting did not curse at the man and threaten to blow his head off before he pulled the trigger, according to legal papers filed in response to a federal lawsuit by the teen’s parents.
The officer, his chief and the city of Seneca also denied that a second officer gave a high-five to Zachary Hammond’s lifeless body in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.
The defendants late Friday answered allegations made in the lawsuit by Hammond’s family, denying almost all the claims, including that Police Lt. Mark Tiller was not justified when he shot Hammond twice July 26 at the Hardee’s in Seneca.
Tiller used “no more force than was reasonably necessary under the circumstances,” the defense lawyers wrote.
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The city said officer Anthony Moon “is purported to have made some statement regarding inappropriate contact” with Hammond’s body, but never touched the dead teen, according to legal papers, which offered no specifics.
Seneca police said they had an undercover officer at the restaurant planning to buy drugs from the woman with Hammond. As Tiller, who was in uniform, approached the car, Hammond tried to pull out of the parking lot.
Tiller said his life was threatened, so he fired twice. A prosecutor has the results of an investigation into the shooting by the State Law Enforcement Division and is deciding whether to charge Tiller.
The dashboard camera of an officer at the restaurant recorded the shooting. SLED and Solicitor Chrissy Adams have refused to release the footage at least until Adams decides what to do.
Hammond’s parents said they filed the federal lawsuit in part to force authorities to turn over that footage.
The teen’s family said a private autopsy found Hammond was shot in the side and back, showing his car was already past Tiller and was no longer a threat to the officer when he fired.
Hammond was killed after taking Tori Morton on a first date. The couple got ice cream at McDonald’s, then drove to Hardee’s so Hammond could get a hamburger, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also seems to indicate there was a pause between the first and second shots, saying Hammond turned toward his date and stared after the first shot. The second shot killed Hammond, according to the private autopsy.
The lawsuit said Tiller pulled something out of his truck after shooting Hammond and returned to the teen’s body. The response said it was first aid equipment. The lawsuit also said Tiller gave his gun to other officers to look at instead of holstering it as required by protocol. The city’s response said Tiller turned his gun over to his supervisor.
A small amount of marijuana was found on Morton, and a bag with a small amount of white powder was found on Hammond, according to Seneca police. Morton was charged with misdemeanor drug possession.
After paramedics determined Hammond was dead, his body was left on the ground for 90 minutes, where it was bitten and stung by ants, according to the lawsuit.
The city said it had turned over Hammond’s body to the coroner’s office.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP