Oconee Coroner Says He Described Seneca Shooting as “Homicide, Not Murder”

SENECA, S.C. (AP) — The law firm representing the family of the man shot in a Seneca Hardee’s parking lot says an independent autopsy contradicts the narrative that Seneca’s police chief has “tried to shape.”

Zachary Hammond was shot twice in the torso Sunday night. A police report says he had driven a 23-year-old woman to the parking lot after an undercover officer arranged to buy marijuana from her.

The law firm Bland and Richter says in a meeting with Oconee Co. Coroner Karl Addis, he said that “the officer murdered that boy”.

Coroner Addis has released a statement saying, “During the course of my conversations with the Hammond family and their legal representation, I referred to the death of Mr. Hammond as homicide, not murder”.

Multiple media outlets report Chief John Covington said Friday the department considers the officer a victim of attempted murder.

But the attorney for Hammond’s parents contends that’s false. Attorney Eric Bland says Hammond was unarmed when he was shot from behind, and his car was not moving.

The law firm Bland and Richter had an independent autopsy done and have release that report. Bland says the report direct contradicts the narrative.

They lay out 6 points in their statement:

1. Clearly this officer was not in any danger at the time he fired the two shots into the car of being hit by the car.
2. Any perceived danger that this officer may have had of being hit by the car (which we deem as not being reasonable) traveling forward or towards him was no longer present.
3. There was no gun. This officer was not being shot at. The national gun standards (New York and Albuquerque) provide that an officer cannot shoot into a moving vehicle unless someone’s life is in danger in the automobile, the driver or one of the inhabitants of the car is shooting out at the officers or others, etc. There was no such danger here. There was no warrant for anyone’s arrest, certainly not Zachary’s. There was no amber alert. No kidnapping and no suspected murder going to tSaake place.
4. One of two things happened, the officer negligently thought there was a weapon in the car and there was not or he was angry at Zachary for not following his instructions or that Zachary was trying to flee so he shot him.
5. The officer did not witness anything illegal, no drug transaction took place.
6. The shots show that the officer first shot Zachary in the posterior left shoulder (back of the shoulder) and in the posterior/side chest. Not in the shoulder and the chest as Chief Covington has repeated to the media over the last week.

Solicitor Chrissy Adams says she has received the report and discussed the findings with the doctor who performed it. She says that it is her understanding that the results are consistent with the original autopsy.

In her statement she says:

There is no question that the shooting death of Zachary Hammond is a homicide. Black’s Law Dictionary gives the definition of homicide. It is defined as “the killing of one person by another. The legal term for killing a man, whether lawfully or unlawfully, is homicide. There is no crime of homicide.”

So again, there is no question that the shooting death of Zachary Hammond is a homicide. The purpose of SLED’s investigation is to uncover all the facts surrounding and leading up to the shooting death of Zachary Hammond. Once this investigation is complete, we will be able to determine whether or not this is a justifiable or criminal homicide. Therefore, there is nothing “stunning” about Coroner Karl Addis’ statement that this is in fact a homicide.

Bland and Richter refer to Chief Covington’s statements as “deceptive”. This is not the case. These statements are consistent with Coroner Karl Addis’ prior press release on July 28, 2015 that states “Mr. Hammond sustained two gunshot wounds to the upper left torso (chest & collarbone-shoulder). The gunshot wound to the chest was fatal; the gunshot wound to the collarbone-shoulder region was not a fatal wound.”

The lawyer firm for the family released the following rebuttal to Adams’ statement:

In response to Chrissy Adams statement below, the family does appreciate her sentiments. Unfortunately, they are not complete. There were three people in the room when Karl Addis made his statement about “homicide”. He followed up that statement with another one. Once that we chose not to release this morning. He said that “the officer murdered that boy”. He was pained when he said it. We didn’t want to have to publish it but we are now left with no choice to put Ms. Adams reference to homicide in its proper context. Buddy Burgiss, who is an extremely well respected retired detective from both the Anderson and Greenville Police forces, who in his career has investigated many many homicides and murders, was present and clearly heard Coroner Addis use the word “murder” as described above in relation to the officers activities. He confirmed it once again today and is willing to testify as to the same if necessary. Eric Bland and Ronald L. Richter, Jr.

The Seneca 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.

SLED say the investigation is open and ongoing.

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