SENECA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina police chief says he will not release the name of an officer who fatally shot a 19-year-old man in a Hardee's parking lot, insisting the officer acted in self-defense.
While the attorney for the teen's parents disputed the officer's account, Seneca Chief John Covington reiterated Friday the department considers the officer a victim of attempted murder.
"We feel that releasing his name may possibly subject the officer and family to harassment, intimidation or abuse," Covington said in a written statement released to the media.
Zachary Hammond was shot twice about 8:20 p.m. on July 26. According to a police report, he had driven a 23-year-old woman to the parking lot after an undercover officer arranged to buy marijuana from her. The woman was not injured. She was charged with simple possession of marijuana and released. A phone listing for her was out of service Saturday.
Covington has said the undercover officer pulled up beside Hammond's car to buy the drugs, and the officer in uniform was coming up to help with any arrests when Hammond drove his car toward the lawman.
But the attorney for Hammond's parents, Eric Bland, contends that explanation is false. He says a private autopsy, conducted Thursday, showed Hammond was shot from behind, and that his car was not moving. He said Hammond was unarmed and at Hardee's on a date.
Bland is calling for the attorney general's office to put the case before a statewide grand jury to investigate. Noting that both Hammond and the officer are white, Bland said Hammond's death should be investigated with the same tenacity as cases that involve different races.
A preliminary autopsy, released Tuesday, showed the fatal shot hit Hammond in the upper torso. But Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis has not specified from which direction the shots came.
Earlier this week, Covington said Hammond's car came at an angle, so the shots were fired into the open, driver's side window.
On Friday, he said he won't address the attorney's "ongoing and unsupported statements" or say any more about the case until the State Law Enforcement Division completes its investigation. The officer is on administrative leave.
"As attorneys are now involved for both the Hammonds and our department, we have released all of the information that we are able to at this time on the incident," the chief said in his statement.