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The parents of an 19-year-old South Carolina motorist who was killed by a Seneca police officer in a parking lot last month are questioning the official account of events, after an autopsy suggested their son was shot in side.
Zachary Hammond was shot through the driver’s side door of his car in a Hardee’s parking lot at around 8:20 p.m. on July 26, after officials said he drove his car towards a police officer in an attempt to evade a stop.
Seneca Police Chief John Covington has refused to name the officer involved, saying the officer is a victim of attempted murder. Covington told NBC affiliate WYFF that the car was coming at an angle, and that’s why the shots entered through the driver’s side window.
But Hammond’s parents, Paul and Angie, told the station Wednesday that they don’t believe deadly force was necessary.
"I hear them say he was feared for his life, but when you see where the gunshot wounds were in my son, it’s hard to believe at that moment in time he was in fear for his life,” Paul Hammond told the station.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the shooting.
Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis said in a statement that Hammond was shot in the chest and collarbone, and the chest wound was fatal.
Attorneys representing the family said that description suggests the fatal shot was fired from in front of the vehicle. But a second autopsy showed the shots came from the side and could not have come from either in front of or behind the vehicle.
The attorneys, Eric Bland and Ronald L. Richter, Jr., characterized the police account of events as "deceptive."
The county prosecutor, 10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams, bristled at that characterization, saying in a statement that the two autopsies are consistent with one another.
Covington has said that a passenger in the car was charged with possession of marijuana.
Meanwhile, there was no weapon found in the vehicle, and no reason for the police stop, the family attorneys said.