Family of an unarmed teenager shot by police say there's no public outcry because he's white

Still from a news report video from WYFF News 4 showing Zachary Hammond.WYFF News 4/YoutubeStill from a news report video from WYFF News 4 showing Zachary Hammond.

Zachary Hammond, a white 19-year-old teen from South Carolina was shot dead during a drug bust in Carolina, the Washington Post reports, and a lawyer for his family says there’s no public outcry just because he’s white. 

On July 26, Hammond was killed in his car on a parking lot by a police officer in Seneca, South Carolina while on a first date with a woman who was arrested and charged with pot possession.

Police said Hammond drove the car toward the officer who was trying to make the stop that prompted the officer to fire two shots. 

According to the coroner’s report, the two gunshots were fired through the open driver’s door window.

The police autopsy did not specify from what direction the bullets came, but on Wednesday Hammond’s family released the results of a private autopsy which stated that the bullets entered Hammond’s body from the back. 

Over the past year, a number of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown have sparked a national outcry, and the lawyer for Hammond’s family, Eric Bland, told the Washington Post that his case is being treated differently because he’s white. 

“Unfortunately, the media and our government officials have treated the death of an unarmed white teenager differently than they would have if this were a death of an unarmed black teen. The hypocrisy that has been shown toward this is really disconcerting,” Bland told the Washington Post. 

Michael brownTwitterMichael Brown

But other factors are influencing the response to Hammond’s killing.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Meredith Clark, an assistant professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas, said that attributing the lack of reaction to Hammond’s death solely to his skin colour was an oversimplification. 

Unlike other high-profile cases, police haven’t released a video of Hammond’s shooting. 

In another police shooting South Carolina, involving a man named Walter Scott, a police officer was caught on camera shooting at Scott in the back as he was running away. And in the chokehold case involving a New York man named Eric Garner, there was also video footage that captured national headlines. 

Clark also pointed out that there haven’t been other reports of racial injustice in Seneca. However, she said that she believed word of Hammond’s shooting would spread slowly.

“The thing that I’m hearing from people is not just a narrative of racial justice. It is accountability for police forces. It is transparency. It is understanding how communities are being policed and what the average citizen has a right to do, or not to do, in those interactions,” Clark said told the LA Times.

“In that case, Hammond fits right in,” she added. “It will just be a matter of time, but we haven’t heard of prior complaints about the police force where he was.”

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