State law-enforcement agents in South Carolina have declined a local paper’s request to release videos capturing an officer’s fatal shooting of a teenager.
The rejection of The Post and Courier’s demand under the Freedom of Information Act comes as a witness claims he saw a Seneca Police officer put something underneath the body of Zachary Hammond, 19, after the shooting.
According to a letter written by the Hammond family’s attorney Eric Bland to the FBI, the witness said he saw a Seneca Police officer pull Hammond’s body out of the car before walking to the trunk of his police cruiser, pulling something out of the trunk, and placing it underneath Hammond’s body.
According to the letter, which was quoted by Fox Carolina 21 in Greenville, the witness said that “After Zachary had been shot and killed, members of the Seneca Police Department lifted his dead hand and ‘high-fived’ Zachary Hammond.”
— Mike (@Youngballa82) August 6, 2015
Police approached Hammond as part of a drug sting while the teen was in his car outside a Hardee’s. According to police, Hammond drove toward Lt. Mark Tiller forcing him to fire two shots and kill Hammond.
According to a private medical examiner hired by the Hammond family, the teenager was shot in the back.
— Torraine Walker (@TorraineWalker) August 4, 2015
Police say a “white, powdery substance” was found at the scene of the shooting.
In a letter, SLED Agent Thom Berry wrote that the agency refused to release the footage because it is part of “an active and ongoing investigation pursuant to which no arrests have been made.”
He also cited an exemption in the state’s Open Records Act which he said allows SLED to deny the paper’s request.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights division is investigating the shooting in conjunction with a state-wide probe.
Seneca Police Chief John Covington said his department will make no further comment on the case.