Police shot and killed a South Carolina man during an undercover marijuana sting — and his family’s attorney said evidence shows the 19-year-old was shot twice in the back from near-point blank range.
Zachary Hammond was shot to death Sunday night in a Hardee’s parking lot, where an undercover officer had arranged a drug buy to lure 23-year-old Tori Morton into an arrest, reported Greenville Online.
The Seneca police officer approached the car, which was driven by Hammond, with his weapon drawn — which police said was common practice during drug arrests.
A police report shows the officer, whose name was not released, executed a search warrant and found a bag of pot in the car.
Media reports have indicated the marijuana was found after the shooting, but an attorney hired by Hammond’s parents said he has not been able to confirm whether that was true.
The police chief, John Covington, said the officer felt threatened because Hammond drove right at him and fired his gun into the open driver’s side window, killing him.
Covington said the officer may have pushed away from the moving car before shooting, and he denied the shots were fired from behind.
The report makes no mention of the shooting, but the police chief said the officer would file a statement about it at some point.
Eric Bland, an attorney for Hammond’s said the autopsy showed the teen was shot in the back and the car was not moving.
The autopsy revealed the first shot entered Hammond’s left rear shoulder, said Bland, and the second one entered five inches away at a downward angle into his side from behind — cutting through the man’s heart and lungs before exiting his lower right side.
“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.”
The Oconee County coroner, Karl Addis, issued a statement Tuesday that shows Hammond died from a gunshot wound to the upper torso but does not specify whether the bullet was fired from the front or back.
The police chief dismissed Bland’s description of the autopsy findings and said the case appeared headed toward a lawsuit.
“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 officer has been placed on administrative leave during an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Morton, who was eating ice cream when the officer approached and was not injured in the incident, was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and faces a possible $500 fine.
Bland has requested the state Attorney General to call for a statewide grand jury investigation of the shooting.
“This is a 19-year-old kid without a weapon in his car, clearly in the Hardee’s parking lot on a date, and within five minutes he has two shots that appear to be in his back and his side, from an officer shooting him from the back — and he’s dead and this family needs answers,” the attorney said.
Watch this video report posted online by WHNS-TV: