The family of Zachary Hammond, the 19-year-old who was shot and killed by police in South Carolina earlier this year, has filed a lawsuit against the officers responsible.
“‘I’ll blow your [expletive] head off,’ were the last words heard by Zachary Hammond,” states the lawsuit, which Hammond’s family says will compel the authorities to release evidence critical to the investigation.
Killed by the Police on a Date
The fatal shooting occurred on July 26, when Hammond was on a date with girlfriend Tori Morton. They first got ice cream at a McDonald’s, and then drove to a Hardee’s fast food restaurant to buy hamburgers, where Seneca police officers spotted them.
Seneca police later said that officers were waiting at Hardee’s for Hammond and Morton because Morton had arranged a drug deal with an undercover officer. The police claimed that when officers pulled up to Hammond’s car to apprehend the suspects, Hammond accelerated to drive off. Lieutenant Mark Tiller then shot Hammond twice.
Seneca police said that a small amount of white powder believed to be illicit drugs was found on Hammond’s dead body. A small amount of marijuana was found on Morton, Hammond’s girlfriend, who has been charged with misdemeanor drug possession.
Cop High-fived over Teen’s Dead Body
Many details regarding the case remain obscure because of the unwillingness of the authorities to release dashboard camera footage and other documents crucial to the investigation. The prosecutor in charge of the case, solicitor Chrissy Adams, has rejected requests from third parties to examine the evidence. She has repeatedly said evidence cannot be released because the case is still open.
Instead of waiting for the authorities, Hammond’s family had ordered a private autopsy and examined private surveillance camera footage, which appear to contradict initial claims by the police. The family has detailed their findings in the recently-filed lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims, once paramedics declared Hammond dead, his body was unattended for 90 minutes as ants stung and bit the corpse. After investigators arrived, a police officer at the scene high-fived over the teen’s corpse, the lawsuit claims.
Police Claim Self-defense; Autopsy Indicates Otherwise
Lieutenant Tiller has defended his actions by claiming in a statement that he fired only to protect himself as Hammond was threatening to run him over. Hammond’s family has rejected Tiller’s self-defense claims by referring to the private autopsy that shows Hammond was shot in the back and the side, which fails to indicate an immediate threat to the officer’s life.
The private autopsy the family’s lawsuit is mainly based on additionally found evidence that there was a pause between the first and the second shot Lieutenant Tiller fired at Hammond. The private autopsy determined that the second shot killed Hammond.
Lieutenant Tiller has yet to face charges.
Solicitor Adams has said that she cannot charge Lieutenant Tiller until state and federal agents complete their investigation.
Hammond’s family has filed another lawsuit demanding the removal of Solicitor Adams from the case because she has a close working relationship with the Seneca police department and its officers. The investigation remains at a standstill until the state Supreme Court decides on this case.