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This Unarmed Teen's Parents Say He Was Killed By A Cop For No Reason

Police claim the officer who killed Zachary Hammond was afraid for his life.

Zachary Hammond was shot and killed by a police officer last month. The 19-year-old Seneca, South Carolina, teen was shot twice during an attempted drug sting by police in the parking lot of a Hardee's restaurant.

The officer, who has yet to be identified, says he feared for his life, but Hammond's family says an autopsy released this week proves the cop was never in danger.

What We Know So Far About The Case

On the evening of July 26, Hammond pulled into the parking lot with a young woman who had made plans to meet someone to sell them a $50 bag of pot. Police haven't said if Hammond knew about the deal, or that the buyer was an undercover cop, but police say a uniformed officer approached the car and Hammond drove the vehicle at the officer. Claiming to be fearing for his life, the cop shot twice, fatally wounding Hammond.

A lawyer for the family initially said the two shots came from behind, though an autopsy showed that the gunshot wounds were to Zachary's chest and collarbone. Hammond's dad, Paul, said he thought his son was just trying to get away from the scene.

"I don't think you use excessive force for somebody in a Honda Civic that they thought he had pot," he told a local newspaper.

The family's autopsy seems to suggest that the bullets came from the side, which isn't consistent with the officer's claim that he feared he was going to be hit by the car. Family lawyer Eric Bland said Hammond slowed the car when police stopped him during the bust and reached for the floor, where the vehicle's gear shift is, to put it in park. Then, Bland said, someone, it's not clear who, yelled that Hammond had a gun and soon after the officer fired twice.

Hammond's parents said the former high school wrestler and soccer player "made mistakes ... but he wasn't the big-time criminal they're making him out to be."

Independent Autopsy Confirms Family's Suspicions

An independent autopsy requested by the Hammond family reportedly confirmed on Wednesday that the officer's life was not in danger when Zachary's car veered toward him. Greenville Online reported that the teen was shot from "left to right and back to front."

Seneca Police Chief John Covington said the officer -- who is on administrative leave -- fired at close range into an open driver's side window as the car threatened to strike him; he would not comment on the autopsy results until the official investigation was completed.

While the incident has not drawn the same attention as other recent high-profile police-involved shootings such as those of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice and Samuel DuBose, national media such as the Los Angeles Times have begun to report on Hammond's case.

A week before Hammond's death, DuBose was killed in a similar incident by a University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot him also claiming he feared being run over. In that case a body camera video appeared to clearly show that the officer was not in danger of being dragged by the car.

There is no video of the Hammond shooting, which comes at a time when South Carolina is on pace to have the most officer-invovled shootings in 15 years, 29 at press time, which could surpass last year's total of 50.


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