Seneca Police Department hires PR firm instead of releasing dash cam video of Hammond shooting

August 25, 2015

On July 26th Lieutenant Mark Tiller of the Seneca (South Carolina) Police Department shot and killed 19-year-old Zachary Hammond in a Hardee’s parking lot. Tiller claimed that he shot Hammond in self-defense to prevent Hammond from driving into him with his vehicle. I wrote about the incident here.

The shooting happened after Hammond’s passenger and date, Tori Morton, sold a few grams of marijuana to an undercover cop. She was subsequently arrested and taken to jail. Tiller shot Hammond through the driver’s side window, which casts doubt on his claim that he reasonably believed that his life was in danger when he fired his gun.

According to Andrew Emett of the Free Thought Project,

Hammond’s autopsy revealed that the teen was shot in the back of his left shoulder and his side. According to witness statements, Hammond’s vehicle was not moving when Tiller shot him twice. In a letter from Hammond’s attorney to the FBI, a witness has recently come forward describing officers planting evidence under Hammond’s body and high-fiving his dead hand after the shooting. Although police found no weapon or drugs on Hammond, Chief Covington claims that a white powdery substance was found at the scene.

Instead of releasing a dash-cam video of the shooting, city officials have hired a PR firm to defend the police from public criticism.

What criticism, you ask? In addition to the troubling facts, here’s a couple of for-examples, provided by Emett.

These alleged acts of misconduct do not make it more or less likely that Lieutenant Tiller lied about the shooting, but the double standard evidenced by the favorable treatment accorded to Chief Covington’s son, the department’s apparent coverup of Tiller’s disciplinary file, and the decision to hire a PR firm instead of releasing the dashcam raise all sorts of questions that the Justice Department may find more than a wee bit “curious.”


Department of Justice will investigate police shooting of unarmed teen in Seneca SC

August 16, 2015

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.



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