Almost one year ago today, without sufficient probable cause Zachary Hammond was gunned down in a Hardee’s parking lot by Officer Mark Tiller of the Seneca, South Carolina Police Department. He was an unarmed 19 year old in the company of a young lady who was suspected of carrying $60.00 of marijuana. As one would suspect, the last year has been difficult for the Hammond Family. Many questions remain unanswered by Chief Covington and the Seneca City Council that should have been answered long ago. Since Zachary’s death, our Country has seen a series of senseless officer-related shootings. The Hammonds had hoped that Zachary’s death would be a teachable moment for citizens and law enforcement officers alike. Unprovoked police to unarmed citizen shootings must stop. The tension between citizens and police has escalated to the point where many have chosen private justice through the assasination of the very men and women who are charged to protect our families and communities. While the Hammond family knows full well the pain and anguish of losing a child at the hands of a rogue police officer, they are also appreciative of the thankless and difficult job that our men and women in blue perform each and every day. The Hammonds placed their trust in the legal system in seeking justice for Zachary. Although no sum of money can ever heal the loss of a child, and although the doors of justice do not always swing open as effortlessly as one may wish, through the system, the Hammonds ultimately received some sense of justice and there has been some closure for the enormous pain they suffered and will continue to suffer. All lives matter and it is an injustice to each and every American when an officer-related shooting is not handled with sensitivity and absolute transparency. Anarchy is not the answer. We must resolve as a community that these matters will be handled swiftly and openly and that the police will be policed. Body and Dash cameras are a must for every police officer in every community.
In the next legislative session, the Hammonds look forward to the reintroduction of the bill and passage of Zach’s Law which will require the immediate release of dash cam videos to the families of those whose loved ones are killed by the police. The Hammonds also wholeheartedly support South Carolina State Representative Todd Rutherford’s new bill that would prohibit officer’s from being able to discharge their weapons into a moving vehicle. The Hammonds remain hopeful that the ongoing Federal Civil Rights investigation and impaneled grand jury into Zachary’s senseless death will result in appropriate criminal charges being brought against Lt. Tiller, Chief Covington and others. Right now as has been the case for the last year, the taxpayers of Seneca have paid and continue to pay Lt. Tiller’s salary while he is on administrative leave. This defies logic. The citizens of Seneca and the Hammonds deserve answers to the many questions that persist from the shooting and why Lt. Tiller continues to draw his salary. Why are tax dollars continued to be wasted on supporting an officer that, whether guilty or not of a state or federal crime involving Zachary’s death, most certainly is not the type of police officer who should be retained based upon his past history of treating city property with such irresponsibility (cars, guns, police dogs, etc.)? One would think based upon these past acts alone which were revealed during the investigation into Zachary’s death and the ensuing civil lawsuit, the city would have reason to terminate his employment and done so long before today.
The Hammonds dream of the Zachary they would like to have known today – the Zachary who had grown and matured as a young man – the Zachary who would be planning a life and a family of his own. He was denied that chance. Finally, the Hammond family prays for our great Country today and that we may find the strength, patience and compassion to heal ourselves. We wish our heartfelt prayers to the Hammonds and to all others who have lost a family member at the hands of those who serve and protect. We also offer our thanks and prayers to the brave men and women in blue. The Hammonds are grateful for the enormous support of many South Carolinians and those throughout the United States who have sent meaningful letters and postings on the internet to them over the last year. Many of these people have tried to open up some closed minds on this very important subject. God Bless.
– Eric Bland / Ronnie Richter, attorneys for Zachary Hammond, deceased and his parents Angie and Paul Hammond