Former Seneca officer refutes lawsuit filed by Zachary Hammond's - FOX Carolina 21

Former Seneca officer refutes lawsuit filed by Zachary Hammond's passenger

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Tori Morton (Aug. 9, 2017/FOX Carolina) Tori Morton (Aug. 9, 2017/FOX Carolina)
Zachary Hammond was fatally shot on July 26 (Photo provided) Zachary Hammond was fatally shot on July 26 (Photo provided)
Mark Tiller (file/FOX Carolina) Mark Tiller (file/FOX Carolina)
SENECA, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A woman who was in the vehicle with Zachary Hammond when he was fatally shot by police has filed a lawsuit against the Seneca Police Department and former officer Mark Tiller.

On July 26, 2015, Hammond and passenger Tori Morton were in a vehicle at the Hardee's restaurant in Seneca when the incident occurred.

Authorities in Oconee County said Hammond was attempting to evade a traffic stop when he pulled into the restaurant. In the lawsuit filed by Morton, she claims the pair were on a first date and stopped to get ice cream.

In the series of events that followed, former Seneca Lt. Mark Tiller opened fire at Hammond's vehicle. Bullets fatally struck the 19-year-old twice in the upper body and also landed in the headrest of Morton's seat.

Coroner Karl Addis, after an investigation, said Tiller used his service weapon after he felt threatened by Hammond who drove his car at him.

The investigation was turned over to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and ultimately the solicitor, who decided not to press charges. Tiller was later terminated from the force.

In 2016, the Hammond family received a settlement of $2.15 million and chose not to move forward with a civil trial against the city of Seneca, the police department and Tiller.

In a lawsuit filed on July 21, however, Morton is seeking damages against the Seneca Police Department, Tiller and Police Chief John Covington for their roles in the incident.

The lawsuit claims Morton "watched in horror" as Hammond was slain and was yelled at in a "hate filled rage" by Tiller. In the hours following, Morton said she was moved to various locations and questioned in unrecorded sessions.

Morton claims she was told if she would give up the location of a gun, she could go home. She said she was also threatened with arrest if she didn't corroborate officers' accounts of the shooting.

A firearm was not located in Hammond's vehicle, however an attorney for Tiller said a substance consistent with cocaine was found in Hammond's personal effects.

Morton said she was a target of undercover operatives with the Seneca police department for weeks following Hammond's death.

She said she suffers from extreme emotional harm, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and fear of retribution from Tiller.

"Tori is entitled to and prays for an award of damages for the pain and suffering she has endured," the document states.

Covington issued the following statement on the case:

Per established policy and protocol with open active litigation, I am unable to answer any questions on the subject and have no comment.

In a press conference on Aug. 9, attorney Keith Denny who is representing Morton, said, "She's scared to death to be in Oconee County or anywhere around Seneca."

Denny said she wants her life back and wishes Hammond could have his life back.

Morton was visibly emotional during the press conference.

"I'm so scared of everything," Morton said. "Police are supposed to protect you."

A jury trial has been requested in the case.

An attorney with Richardson, Plowden and Robinson confirmed their office has been retained to represent Tiller in the case.

"We are in the process of investigating the validity of Ms. Morton's allegations," attorney Drew Butler said. "Mr. Tiller plans to file an answer to Ms. Morton's claim that denies both liability and damages."

On Aug. 16, Tiller filed a response to the lawsuit in which he said Morton's account of the events contained false statements and tried to "inflame the motions of the readers and sensationalize the case."

In the response, Tiller says Morton sent a text to the wrong number offering to sell cocaine and marijuana. The incorrect number was the number for a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper, Tiller said.

Tiller also claims Morton and Hammond were involved "long before their alleged 'first date'."

He said in a recorded statement, Morton said, "I don't know why [Hammond] didn't stop, he tried to run that cop over!" He also said her concerns of retribution from the Seneca Police Department are "unfounded" because she lives in another state and he is no longer employed with the department.

Tiller said his use of force was "necessary and reasonable" to defend his life and others.

The response documents filed by Tiller contains multiple images of texts and written statements he attributes to Morton.

READ MORE: Complete coverage of Zachary Hammond case

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