Family of teen killed by South Carolina police settle lawsuit

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 29, 2016 8:37 PM

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of an unarmed white teen who was shot to death last summer by a police officer in South Carolina has been settled for $2.15 million, attorneys for both sides said on Tuesday.

Zachary Hammond, 19, died last July when he was shot by Lieutenant Mark Tiller through the open window of the car he was driving in a Hardee's parking lot in the town of Seneca, about 120 miles northwest of the state capital, Columbia.

"Rather than endure a lengthy litigation process, both parties agree that an early resolution will allow a platform for healing for the Hammond family and the City of Seneca that is outside the spotlight of litigation,” lawyers for all parties said in a statement.

No state criminal charges were filed against Tiller in the shooting.

Hammond's killing came during a wave of protests across the country in response to several high-profile police killings of unarmed black men, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement.

His parents asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate their son's death, arguing that excessive police force was not a matter of race. A federal grand jury was empanelled last August, Hammond family attorney Eric Bland said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.The town of Seneca will pay $250,000 and the rest will come from the South Carolina Municipal Insurance Reserve Fund, Bland said.

"You don't pay $2,150,000 unless something is wrong," he added. "That amount of money is consistent with all the other police shooting cases across the country."Police said at the time that Hammond drove his Honda Civic directly at Tiller when asked to put his hands on the steering wheel during a stop that was part of a drug sting.

But dashcam video released by investigators three months after the shooting showed Tiller running to Hammond's car, yelling at him to stop and firing at him through the open window as it began to move away.

A private pathology report found that Hammond was shot twice, once in the left shoulder from behind and once in the left side of his chest.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Peter Cooney)