A lawyer representing the family of a Seneca [S.C.] teenager who was shot by police Sunday night said the autopsy shows that Zachary Hammond was shot from behind and his car was not moving, contrary to police reports that the car veered toward the officer during a drug sting.
Eric Bland, a Columbia attorney hired by Hammond’s parents, said he has requested the state Attorney General to call for a statewide grand jury investigation into the incident.
“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.” . . .
Bland said the autopsy indicated that the first shot went into Hammond’s left rear shoulder, throwing him forward in the car, and the second one went at a downward angle into his side from the rear, through his heart and lungs and leaving out his lower right side.
The entry wounds were five inches apart, he said.
“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.
According to the police, an undercover police office had arranged to buy some pot from the woman in Hammond’s car. When Hammond and the woman arrived at the agreed-upon location, a uniformed officer emerged with his gun drawn. Hammond’s passenger was later charged with misdemeanor possession of pot. Hammond’s family says he was on a date.
The police are standing by the officer’s story that Hammond accelerated at the officer. Of course, we’ve now seen enough instances in which video has contradicted police accounts to know better than to simply defer to the official narrative, particularly when other evidence suggests that narrative is inaccurate. Unfortunately, there’s no video of this incident. The police department is also refusing to release the name of the officer. They say this is to protect him from threats and harassment. But it also means we can’t know if there are any similar incidents in his history, or if he has previously given reasons to question his credibility.
But even if the events transpired exactly as the police claim, this is another death directly attributable to the drug war. Assuming the police are correct about what transpired before the shooting, we don’t know if Hammond was knew what his friend was up to or if he was just giving her a ride. We don’t know if he was intentionally trying to run over a cop, if he was spooked by the sight of a man pointing a gun at him and drove at the man in a panic, or if, as the autopsy suggests, he was simply trying to flee, be it from a cop to escape prosecution, or from what he thought was a stranger coming at him with a gun. We do know that other completely innocent people have tried to drive away when cops have come running at them with guns, that the cops have attacked them, and that the police mistook what was actually an attempt to flee as an attempt to strike them with a vehicle.
The bottom line is that a young man is dead because the state of South Carolina deploys men with guns to try to prevent South Carolinians from smoking pot. I think it’s also safe to say anyone who wants to get high in Seneca, S.C., today will find it just as easy to get some pot as it was when Zachary Hammond was still alive.