It seems that not even a month goes by before we hear about another fatal shooting, courtesy of police officers.
On July 26, 19-year-old Zachary Hammond was shot while on a date at a fast food restaurant in Seneca, South Carolina. Police stopped the vehicle while conducting a drug investigation pertaining to Hammond’s date, Tori Morton. Morton was the target of a minor marijuana sting performed by the Seneca Police Department.
That, however, is where the facts stop.
The police officer, Lt. Mark Tiller, who killed the young victim, claimed he was shooting in self-defense as Hammond reportedly accelerated the car in Tiller’s direction.
My question is why?
Why did the officer think deadly force was the necessary solution in this predicament? Could he not have simply stepped to the side to get out of the car’s way?
Eric Bland, the Hammond family’s attorney, put it simply when he said, “This is about the use of overreaching deadly force in situations where it is not required.”
Dissatisfied with the police autopsy, Hammond’s family decided to conduct an independent autopsy and their findings were shocking.
The official report conducted by Pathology Consultants of Greenville said, “The findings at autopsy are consistent with the decedent being seated in a motor vehicle and being shot from the side of the vehicle through the open driver’s side window. It is not reasonable that this decedent would have suffered these injuries in these anatomic locations had the decedent been shot from either the rear or the front of the vehicle.”
Basically, the second opinion ruled out the possibility that Tiller shot at Hammond from directly in front of the vehicle, in his supposed position of self-defense. However, the ongoing investigation permits a closer look at the young boy’s shirt and the dash cam video of the officer’s car, which has yet to be released.
The fact that Tiller shot at the driver’s side window does not justify the fact that he was shooting in self-defense because his stance from the side of the vehicle is classified as a safety point. Another investigation being promoted due to the irresponsible and reckless actions of a police officer, not only calls for further investigation into police protocols, but also a closer look into the type of people our police departments are hiring to protect our citizens.
Thankfully, Hammond’s family is going above and beyond to get an answer as to why their son was killed.
According to the Huffington Post, their attorney has requested “that the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. attorney’s office and Federal Bureau of Investigation intervene in the probe because of the substantial violations of [Hammond’s] civil rights and the need for a transparent and independent investigation of the Seneca Police Department’s policies, procedures and practices.”
So far, it seems, we have more reason to fear our police officers than to believe they are stationed for our safety.
Tiffani Daniel is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.