City of Seneca statement on Zachary Hammond settlement

The City of Seneca is responding to the $2.15 million settlement reached with the family of Zachary Hammond.

The 19-year-old was shot and killed by Seneca Police Officer Lt. Mark Tiller during a drug investigation in July, 2015. The family announced earlier this week that it had reached a settlement with the city worth $2.15 million.

On Friday, Seneca City Administrator Greg Dietterick released the following statement:

“The City of Seneca has received numerous questions concerning the pending federal litigation. Subject to Court approval, the parties have reached a settlement of that lawsuit. The City of Seneca’s contribution to the settlement was the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($250,000.00). The City of Seneca will use utility proceeds to fund this amount and not Tax Dollars. As a result, the settlement will have No impact on City Taxes. It is the City’s hope the settlement will help begin a much needed healing for both the City’s constituents and the Hammond family.”

Eric Bland, the attorney for the Hammong family, issued the following statement earlier this week:

“The family of Zachary Hammond, along with the City of Seneca, the Seneca Police Department, Chief John Covington and Lt. Mark Tiller are hereby announcing that the civil litigation involving the death of Zachary Hammond has settled for total payments to the Estate of Zachary Hammond in the amount of $2,150,000.00.  There will be no further legal proceedings between the parties.  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.”

Hammond was shot and killed by Tiller during a drug investigation into the passenger in his car on July 26, 2015. Solicitor Chrissy Adams said that Tiller was justified in the shooting because he feared for his life. The state did not press charges.Tiller could face federal charges pending the outcome of an investigation with the Department of Justice.

Wednesday, Angie and Paul Hammond spoke publicly along with their attorney to explain the reasons for settling.

“This brings an end to this chapter and something we have to do to bring closure to our lives. We have a son who needs our attention right now,” said Paul Hammond, referring to Zach’s younger brother, Dylan.

Mother, Angie Hammond said no amount of money would ever bring back her son.

“The settlement reached today is bittersweet. It will not bring Zach back,” she said. “We live a new normal and it’ll never go back to the way it was. Never.”

Attorney Eric Bland went deeper into the legal decision to settle from their side and the side of Lt. Mark Tiller. He said Tiller was slated to undergo a video deposition this Friday in connection with the Hammond’s lawsuit. Now that will not happen. Earlier this month, a judge denied Tiller’s attorney’s motion to postpone the deposition for 90 days.

“He would have to make a decision whether he would have to take the 5th amendment or not,” Bland explained. “When you have those kinds of serious things, that’s when lawyers start to pause and their guts start to check and say maybe we should start talking.”

Meanwhile, the judge presiding over the civil lawsuit for Zachary Hammond ordered the PR Firm Complete PR to release all documents to Hammond’s family attorney, last week. Complete PR was hired to represent Seneca Police after the fatal shooting of Hammond. The law firm representing Seneca Police argued that the emails and documents were client privilege. The Judge read over the documents and ordered that they should be turned over for the case.

Bland also explained the breakdown of the 2.15 million dollars. He said the city of Seneca would pay out 250,000 from the city’s general fund. 7 News contacted the city to ask if they would have to raise taxes on it’s citizens in order to complete this payout. The city did not respond, Wednesday. Bland said the remaining 1.9 million will be paid through the city’s insurance policy through the state.

Wednesday, Tiller’s attorney released a statement saying, “Lieutenant Mark Tiller is pleased that a settlement was reached in this case. The past few months have been very trying for the City of Seneca, Lieutenant Mark Tiller and the Hammond family. The settlement will hopefully allow everyone to begin the healing process and close a chapter that has been difficult for all parties involved.”

The Hammond’s said, Wednesday, they would now “make up for lost time” with their son. They added they were still working to get legislation passed through the state Senate that would make it harder for law enforcement agencies to withold dash cam video.

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