15 Aug 2015

Police decline to release video of shooting of unarmed teen during marijuana bust. Police allegedly planted evidence and high-fived the dead victim.

State Law Enforcement Division agents Friday denied a formal request by The Post and Courier to release videos from a controversial police shooting in Seneca that spawned a federal civil rights probe.
The denial under the state’s open records act comes amid new allegations from a witness who said a Seneca officer placed something underneath the body of Zachary Hammond, 19, immediately after the shooting.
Quoting a letter from Hammond’s attorney to the FBI, FOX Carolina 21 in Greenville reported that a witness saw an officer pull Hammond’s body from the car and go to the trunk of his police cruiser to pull something out. The officer then reportedly returned to Hammond’s body, rolled it on the side, placed the object under his body, and then rolled it back.
Hammond’s attorneys also wrote that the witness stated that “After Zachary had been shot and killed, members of the Seneca Police Department lifted his dead hand and ‘high fived’ Zachary Hammond,” the television station reported.
Seneca Chief John Covington could not be immediately reached for comment. In previous remarks, Covington said that he and his department will have no further comments about the case.
Hammond, a 2014 graduate of Seneca High School, was unarmed in his car at a Hardee’s when officers converged on his car as part a drug sting. In past statements, Seneca police said Hammond drove toward Lt. Mark Tiller, prompting Tiller to fire two shots, killing Hammond. Police also have said a white powdery substance was found at the scene.
Hammond’s family hired a medical examiner to do a private autopsy, which showed that the teen was shot in the back. Earlier this week, the Justice Department said its civil rights division would investigate the shooting to “run parallel” with the state’s investigation.
A police video of the shooting reportedly exists, and the family tearfully pleaded for its release on Wednesday. The Post and Courier submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act immediately after the shooting.
On Friday, SLED Agent Thom Berry wrote a letter declining the request because “this is an active and ongoing investigation pursuant to which no arrests have been made.” Berry cited an exemption in the law that he said allows the agency to deny the request.
The law, however, does not prohibit the release of videos and other materials. Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, has called for SLED to produce the video because of the public’s interest in how police use deadly force. 
Read More:http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150814/PC16/150819609/sled-declines-to-release-video-amid-new-allegations-in-seneca-police-shooting

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