Seneca Police Chief John Covington is refusing to release the name of the officer who shot an unarmed teenager in the back over a marijuana sale on July 26.
The chief claims his officer acted in self defense, despite evidence showing otherwise, and considers him to be a “victim of attempted murder.”
The department claims that Zachary Hammond, 19, was driving his friend to meet an undercover officer with whom she had arranged the pot deal, not realizing they were being lured into a police sting operation in the parking lot of a Hardee’s fast food restaurant.
The chief claims that when they pulled up to the undercover cop’s car to make the purchase, another Seneca officer in uniform exited a marked police vehicle with his gun drawn, which they say is standard procedure for narcotics arrests.
But Hammond drove directly towards the officer in an attempt to flee, the chief claims, which is why the cop fired two shots into Hammond’s open driver’s side window at point blank range.
However, the family’s attorney, Eric Bland, stated this scenario could not possibly have played out that way based on findings from a private autopsy.
According to the Greenville News:
“It is clearly, clearly from the back,” Bland said after viewing pictures of the bullet wounds at the coroner’s office Wednesday.
“It is physically impossible for him to be trying to flee or run over the officer that shot him.”
The autopsy revealed the first bullet went into the back of Hammond’s left shoulder, lurching him forward inside of the car, according to the attorney.
And the second bullet entered his body at a downward angle into his side from the rear, through his heart and lungs and exiting out of his lower right side.
“The shots were so close in proximity to each other that it would be physically impossible unless the car was stopped and the officer came up very close to an open window,” Bland said.
“Picture a car going 20 miles an hour and I’m fortunate enough to get a shot off, and I hit you —there’s no way I can get the second shot if the car’s going 20 miles an hour,” Bland said.
Still, the department maintains their story, despite the evidence provided from the autopsy.
On Friday, Chief Covington stated that the department is considering the officer to be a victim of attempted murder, and will not be releasing his name out of fear that he will be targeted for harassment.
“We feel that releasing his name may possibly subject the officer and family to harassment, intimidation or abuse,” Covington wrote in a statement.
The officer who shot the unarmed teenager has been placed on paid administrative leave. The city and the officer have both hired attorneys regarding this case.
The woman who was in the car with Hammond, 23-year-old Tori Morton, was charged with possession of marijuana. She was eating ice cream when Hammond was shot and killed.
The same report makes no mention of the shooting. Chief Covington said the officer will eventually file a report on the shooting.
The shooting was the 29th so far this year by South Carolina police, who are on pace to having the most officer-involved shootings in 15 years.