A lawyer representing the family of a Seneca 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.”
Seneca Police Chief John Covington on Wednesday stood by the account told him by the officer who was attempting to make a drug arrest that night, explaining that the shots were fired from near point-blank range into the open driver’s side window.
“He actually had his hand on or very close to the car, possibly pushed off from the car,” Covington said.
But the teen, he said, “was not shot from behind.”
“The attorney wasn’t there either,” Covington said. “He’s got to put his spin on things.
“His clients are the parents and they’re grieving. I understand that. My heart goes out to them.”
The car, which was driven by the 19-year-old Seneca High School graduate, was turning toward the officer as if to run over him and the officer fired in self-defense, the chief said.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates the shooting, which is standard in any police shooting.
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.
Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis released a statement Tuesday saying Hammond died from a gunshot wound to the upper torso, but the statement didn’t indicate if the bullet came from the front or back. He referred questions to SLED, the Seneca Police and the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
Tori Dianna Morton, 23, of Pickens, was in the car with Hammond but wasn’t hurt. She was arrested for possession of marijuana.
Covington said the officer approached the car with his gun drawn, as is common practice in making narcotics arrests.
An undercover officer had arranged a drug buy to lure Morton into the parking lot of Hardee’s restaurant on U.S. 123, according to an incident report.
The report says the officer executed a search warrant and found a bag of marijuana in the car. It makes no mention of the shooting. Covington said the officer will file a statement later.
Both the officer and the city have hired lawyers for the case, the chief said.
“Ultimately, it would appear it’s headed toward litigation,” he said.