The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that it is investigating the death of Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old white kid who was shot to death on July 26th by Lieutenant Mark Tiller, an officer employed by the Seneca Police Department in Seneca, South Carolina. The shooting occurred in a Hardee’s parking lot after Hammond picked up his order at the drive-through window and was about to exit the parking lot.
Unbeknownst to Hammond, police were running an undercover sting operation in the parking lot. A police vehicle suddenly pulled in front of him and stopped preventing him from exiting the parking lot. The New York Times reports,
According to the Oconee County coroner’s report, an officer identified as Lt. Mark Tiller then “felt threatened” as Mr. Hammond drove his car toward him. The officer fired two shots through the open window on the driver’s side, striking Mr. Hammond once in the shoulder and once fatally in the chest.
The coroner concluded that Hammond’s death was a homicide, rather than a justifiable shooting in self-defense, probably because Tiller could not have been in the zone of potential danger in front of Hammond’s vehicle when he fired the two shots through the driver’s side window.
Apparently, Hammond was an innocent person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was unarmed and he had no criminal record. He was not alone in the car. A young woman was sitting in the front passenger seat holding an ice-cream cone. They were on their first date together. Police arrested her after the shooting and booked her into jail for possession of a small quantity of marijuana.
As if these circumstances were not sufficiently egregious, the lawyer who petitioned DOJ on behalf of Hammond’s parents to investigate the shooting as a potential civil rights violation, stated in the petition that “Seneca police officers desecrated Hammond’s body by lifting his dead hand and slapping it with a high-five gesture.”
The Seneca Police Department recently denied a public records request by two local newspapers to release dash-cam videos from the patrol cars.