After he was shot and killed by police, a Seneca, S.C., police officer took Zachary Hammond's lifeless hand and high-fived it, according to a witness to the deadly shooting. The allegations of police apparently celebrating the fatal incident by disturbing the 19-year-old's dead body were included in a letter sent by attorney Eric Bland to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey last week, reports BuzzFeed News. A civil rights investigation of Hammond’s death was opened a day after the letter was sent to federal authorities.
Seneca Police said Lt. Mark Tiller fired his weapon twice at Hammond because the teen drove his car toward him, and because Tiller feared for his life. Hammond's family is challenging the department's account, pointing to a second autopsy that showed bullets entered Hammond's car through the driver's-side window, suggesting Tiller was not in the car's path. The case has not received as much attention as several other officer-involved shooting deaths because those victims were black, says the New York Times. “If Zachary were black, the outpouring of protest and disappointment from the public and the press would be amazing,” Bland said. Also, investigators have refused to release a police dashboard camera video that may show Hammond's death, while graphic videos of the killing of some African Americans quickly went viral, galvanizing outrage.