Justice

The Outrageous Reason a Teen Is Dead Over Marijuana

Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old from South Carolina, was shot and killed by a Seneca police officer on Sunday after he allegedly drove a friend, 23-year-old Tori Morton, to a parking lot where an undercover police officer had arranged to purchase drugs from her. The apparent sting operation took a tragic turn when the officer exited his unmarked vehicle, weapon drawn, and shot Hammond twice.

FOX Carolina 21

The officer involved in the shooting has not been named, but authorities say that he has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal review. Few details are known about the narcotics operation that led to the incident; however, Hammond's parents believe that their son was inadvertently caught in the middle of a marijuana drug bust targeted at Morton, who was arrested for marijuana possession that night.

Morton was entrapped in the parking lot of a local fast food location, local Fox affiliate WHNS reported. After Hammond was shot, the officer executed a search warrant and found a bag of marijuana.

Seneca police chief John Covington said that the officer discharged his weapon in self-defense—that Hammond accelerated his car toward the officer in an effort to hit him. But a lawyer representing Hammond's family, Eric Bland, contends that the autopsy report, which was released on Tuesday, contradicts the officer's account of the July 26 shooting. He claims that the report shows the teen had been shot twice from the back rather than the front.

"It is physically impossible for him to be trying to flee or run over the officer that shot him," Bland told Greenville Online on Wednesday. "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."

According to the autopsy report, the gunshot entry wounds were only five inches apart, WHNS reported.

Covington denied the allegation that Hammond had been shot from behind. He said that the weapon was discharged "from near point-blank range into the open driver’s side window." The officer had been employed by the Seneca police department in South Carolina for at least five years and had prior law enforcement experience, he added.

Still, the officer and city have hired lawyers in anticipation of a lawsuit.

"Ultimately, it would appear it’s headed toward litigation,” Covington said.

In a recent statement, Hammond's parents said that they were grieving over the loss of their son.

"This is a most difficult time and the facts as we have been told and reported are in conflict. We are conducting our own investigation as to the circumstances of this tragic and unnecessary death"

Hammond's death marks the state's 29th police-involved shooting this year, according to the Huffington Post.