COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina city is firing one of its police officers because after 13 months it no longer wants to pay him to be on administrative leave as he is investigated for shooting an unarmed teen, according to the officer’s personnel file.
The short note added to Seneca police Lt. Mark Tiller’s file points out that even though a state prosecutor didn’t file criminal charges in Tiller’s shooting of Zachary Hammond as he tried to drive away during a drug sting, an investigation by federal officials continues.
“Being a small municipality, the department must fill this integral position and release the employee,” reads the note, released Thursday by Seneca after a Freedom of Information Act request.
Seneca Police Department’s website lists 16 patrol officers, with Tiller as a supervisor of one of the two shifts.
Tiller’s last day with the force will be Friday. He can be hired by another agency if they wish.
Tiller’s lawyer said he had no additional comment Thursday. When Seneca first announced Tiller’s firing, attorney John Mussetto released a statement saying it was disappointing how the city treated Tiller after his nearly seven years on the force.
“It makes no sense for the Seneca PD to terminate Lt. Tiller when the state determined there was no basis to press criminal charges,” Mussetto wrote.
Tiller was in uniform helping an undercover officer who arranged to buy drugs from a passenger in Hammond’s car in a fast food restaurant parking lot in July 2015. When Tiller moved to arrest Hammond and his passenger, the teen started to drive off.
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.
Although Tiller might have made a bad decision by 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.
Hammond’s passenger was charged with simple marijuana, while cocaine packaged for distribution was found in Hammond’s shorts pocket and packaged marijuana was found near his seat, prosecutors said.
Hammond’s family agreed to a $2.1 million settlement with the city of Seneca.