COLUMBIA, S.C. — A police officer who is being fired more than a year after shooting an unarmed teen in a case that prosecutors decided not to pursue has not been told why he is losing his job, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Seneca Police Lt. Mark Tiller was given almost no notice before Police Chief John Covington announced in a news release Saturday that Tiller would be fired at the end of the week, attorney John Mussetto said.
“Chief Covington has only referred to this as a ‘personnel matter’ and has given no further details on the termination,” Mussetto said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
Covington used the same language in the news release. Tiller will remain on the city’s payroll until Friday.
The lieutenant has been in law enforcement for a decade and worked in Seneca since 2010. His firing doesn’t mean he can’t find another job as an officer, under South Carolina law.
Tiller was helping with a drug sting in a fast-food restaurant parking lot in July 2015 when he went to arrest Hammond and his passenger.
Tiller said he shot at the moving car because Hammond was about to run him over and he feared for his life. But video from his patrol car showed him move toward Hammond’s car, grab the front fender and fire his gun after the car moved past.
While Tiller might have made a bad decision heading toward Hammond’s moving car, the officer had less than three seconds to react and broke no law, Solicitor Chrissy Adams said in October after deciding not to charge the officer.
Federal authorities are still investigating the shooting. Hammond’s family agreed to a $2.1 million settlement with the city of Seneca.
Hammond’s family released its own statement about Tiller’s firing, calling him a rogue officer whose unjustified actions tarnished the reputations of the vast majority of good officers.
“With each passing day the Hammonds never lost hope that Lt. Tiller would in the future never again have the highest honor of serving the public as a police officer, wear the uniform and carry a weapon,” the family’s statement read.
Tiller was assigned to training classes up until August, including one course titled “De-escalation: Surviving Verbal Conflict.” He completed four training classes after the July 2015 shooting, according to his South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy records.
Tiller’s first job was with West Pelzer police, where he was employed from January 2006 to August of that year. From August 2006 until June 2007, he worked for Clemson University police, then in June 2007 he joined the Clemson city police, where he worked until being hired by the Seneca police department in January 2010.