It’s been three months since South Carolina police shot and killed Zachary Hammond, claiming he was trying to run them over, but police still refuse to release the dashcam video.
The video would show Seneca Police Lieutenant Mark Tille shooting Hammond as the 19-year-old allegedly drove his vehicle towards Tiller during an undercover drug sting July 26.
However, an autopsy indicates that Hammond was shot from the side, back to front, making it impossible for Tille to have been directly in the path of the oncoming car as police claim.
The Hammond family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Seneca Police Department, Lieutenant Mark Tiller and Chief of Police John Covington.
In a formal answer to the Hammond’s lawsuit against them, Seneca PD. denies every allegation brought against the department without bothering to settle the dispute by releasing the video.
Now after multiple attempts to obtain the video, three South Carolina newspapers are suing the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) for the release of the video; the Greenville News, the Anderson Independent-Mail and The Journal of Seneca.
History shows that South Carolina authorities have a tendency to not release dashcam videos and public records, despite their refusals being against the law. In fact, PINAC reported on how the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has been sued multiple times in the past.
“You shouldn’t have to spend money for a lawsuit in order to get something released that should be released in the first place,” Angie Hammond, the mother of the slain teen, told WDTN.
“What’s so sad about this is that it’s taken a lawsuit from the media to try and get the video released.”
After the shooting, the three newspapers requested the dashcam video and any records relating to the incident from the Seneca Police Department, but the department indicated that all records had been sent to SLED.
Upon the public records requests, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said it didn’t have to release the video because it is part of an active investigation.
But state law states otherwise. Many police departments across the nation use the “active investigation” excuse as a way to avoid the release of public records.
The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act states that, “providing persons with information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officials and employees, whose duty is to provide the information.”
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is a public entity that must comply with releasing public records, which, of course, includes dashcam video.
In addition to that, the newspapers allege that there is no risk of endangering the life, health, or property of anyone involved in the shooting or attached to the public record.
Furthermore, there are no matters exempted from disclosure by other statute or law. The papers further allege that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division could have at least released a redacted version of the public records sought.
Essentially, SLED has claimed public record exemptions that are not supported by fact or law. The lawsuits filed by the newspapers and the Hammond family are pending.