Zachary Hammond autopsy challenges police account of fatal shooting
19-year-old Zachary Hammond [WHNS-TV]

An independent autopsy acquired by the Guardian concludes that 19-year-old Zachary Hammond, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Seneca, South Carolina , was shot from the side – challenging the officer’s account of the killing.

Attorney Eric Bland, who represents the Hammond family, said the independent autopsy raises questions about the police account, which said that Hammond was driving his vehicle at the officer who fired on him.

“When he [the officer] shot, it was physically impossible for the car to hit him because he’s next to him [Hammond],” Bland told the Guardian. “So unless a hurricane comes and blows the car over, it’s physically impossible for him to be hit by a car at that point.”

“It is not reasonable,” the report reads, that Hammond “would have suffered these injuries in these anatomic locations [the back of his shoulder and the side of his chest] had [he] been shot from either the rear or the front of the vehicle”.

The shooting occurred on 26 July during an an attempted drug sting by the Seneca police department in the parking lot of a Hardee’s restaurant. An officer approached a car driven by Hammond when, police say, Hammond tried to flee.

Seneca police chief John Covington said the officer, who has not yet been named “felt threatened by [Hammond], who was driving his car toward the officer attempting to make the stop”. No weapon was recovered in the vehicle and Hammond had no prior record.

The initial autopsy performed by Oconee County coroner Karl Addis said Hammond had been struck twice, in the shoulder and the chest, a finding in line with what Seneca police authorities have said. Bland called that characterization by police – which did not specify the back of the shoulder and the side of the chest – “incredibly misleading”.

“It gives the impression that he shot him from the front, which is consistent with the officer’s account that the car was coming at him,” Bland said.

Covington said last week that Hammond’s car came at an angle, so the shots were fired into the open driver’s side window.

The Seneca police department’s press office confirmed that the department would not be making any further comments on Hammond’s death during the investigation. © Guardian News and Media 2015