A probe into the shooting of Zachary Hammond has been launched by the Justice Department. Three weeks ago, Hammon was shot and killed by Seneca, South Carolina, police officers in a Hardee's parking lot during a drug bust.
The parents of the young man have now asked why there has been no outrage over their son's death, noting that international headlines and protests were sparked in other instances where an unarmed teenager was shot by police. Hammond's parents pointed out the only difference in this police shooting is that Zachary was white.
Zachary Hammond was reportedly approached by South Carolina police officers over a "small amount" or marijuana in his possession. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the Columbia office of the FBI announced a probe into the shooting was launched on Wednesday, according to a report in the Charleston Post and Courier.
The Civil Rights probe was announced several hours after the parents of Zachary Hammond held a news conference and pleaded that South Carolina prosecutors and state law enforcement officials release the dash cam footage of the shooting.
"I hope it shows us some answers to what happened that night," Paul Hammond, Zachary's father, told local reporters. "We need some kind of closure ourselves. Right now it is so difficult to move on without having answers."
On July 26, Zachary, 19, was on a first date with Toni Mortin, 23, and was reportedly eating an ice cream cone before the fatal shooting. The Seneca police officers arrived at the scene because they reportedly knew that Morton was known to carry drugs. She possessed 10 grams of marijuana at the time of the shooting, police reports indicate. Two shots were fired into Hammond's vehicle, killing the teenager. Exactly what transpired between the arrival of the police officers and the shooting remains unclear.
Ronnie Richter, an attorney for the Hammond family, said law enforcement officials should release the police dash cam footage quickly, as was done with the Walter Scott police shooting in North Carolina in April. Richter also stated that the footage took away all "speculation and guesswork" about the shooting.
The initial police report on the Zachary Hammond shooting did not mention shots being fired, according to the Washington Post. After the name of the officer involved in the shooting was made pubic, Lt. Mark Tiller, a second police report was penned. Another officer described the "attempted murder" of Lt. Tiller but did not reportedly elaborate on why the officer felt threatened or what exactly prompted the shooting.
Lt. Mark Tiler has worked as a police officer for 10 years, according to a statement from his attorney. The officer said that when he approached Zachary Hammond and instructed him to put his hands up, the teen "suddenly" whipped the car into reverse.
"Mr. Hammond then rapidly accelerated in the direction of Lieutenant Tiller, forcing the lieutenant to push off of Mr. Hammond's car to keep from being struck and run over," the statement from the attorney also read. "In order to stop the continuing threat to himself and the general public, two shots were fired by Lieutenant Tiller in quick succession."
The statement also alleged that a white, powdery substance "consistent with cocaine" was found on the South Carolina teenager's body.
Here's an excerpt from a statement released by the Hammond family.
"While many other recent events have involved white on black police shootings, police brutality and the excessive use of force are race neutral issues. The Hammond family hopes and trusts that the United States Justice Department will investigate the death of their son with the same intensity and thoroughness as it has demonstrated in other interracial settings. Every death of an unarmed teen, regardless of color, strips a piece of our dignity and humanity as a society."
The autopsy report released by the Hammond family last week stated that Zachary was shot twice in the back, the second shot hit his heart and lungs and proved fatal. The death has been classified as a homicide.
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