A Different World

Only #BlackLivesMatter has been talking about unarmed white S.C. teen shot by police. Why?

Cameras like these might shed light on the Zachary Hammond case when video of the incident is released.
Cameras like these might shed light on the Zachary Hammond case when video of the incident is released. TNS

You probably don’t know the name Zachary Hammond as well as that of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But you should.

While black people are disproportionately affected in these kinds of cases, not a small number of white people have also been impacted. In this particular case, the victim’s family pushed the issue to the forefront on Wednesday when it released an autopsy report challenging the initial police version of the events.

No matter how the case shakes out, it once again highlights the need to reconsider of drug laws, our gun culture and how we are being policed.

Related: Suicides, highest rate of gun violence in industrialized world too high a price

Here’s one story about it:

The official police report never mentioned the two gunshots that killed Hammond on July 26 in a Hardees parking lot.

Amid heightened scrutiny of fatal police shootings across the country, Hammond’s death has prompted numerous questions, few answers — and almost no national outrage.

More than a week after Hammond’s death, his family’s attorney says race is almost certainly playing a role in the disconcerting silence. Unlike the victims in the highest-profile police shootings over the past year — in cities from Ferguson and Cleveland to North Charleston and Cincinnati — Hammond was white.

“It’s sad, but I think the reason is, 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,” Bland told The Washington Post this week. “The hypocrisy that has been shown toward this is really disconcerting.”

Read more here.

An independent autopsy suggests that the official police version of events was impossible, given the angle of the bullets:

“It is not reasonable,” the report reads, that Hammond “would have suffered these injuries in these anatomic locations [the back of his shoulder and the side of his chest] had [he] been shot from either the rear or the front of the vehicle”.

The shooting occurred on 26 July during an an attempted drug sting by the Seneca police department in the parking lot of a Hardee’s restaurant. An officer approached a car driven by Hammond when, police say, Hammond tried to flee.

Read more here.

What is the solicitor and coroner saying:

10th Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said she has seen the independent autopsy report and spoken to the doctor who performed it and believes it is “consistent” with the findings of the original autopsy.

She also took issue with statements put out by Hammond family attorney Eric Bland in calling Covington’s description of the incident “deceptive” for having said Hammond was shot in the chest.

“This is not the case,” Adams said of the attorney’s dispute. “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.’”

Read more here.

What has the #AllLivesMatter crowd, which was created in response to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, said:

Hammond's death also highlights a truth many white Americans seem reluctant to face: that police violence can affect anyone -- their white friends, cousins, brothers, sisters, even themselves. Though bad policing may take a disproportionate toll on communities of color, the calls for reform now being voiced loudest by people of color would benefit all of us.

Many people in the Black Lives Matter movement have been saying this since the beginning, which is why, in the absence of much mainstream media coverage, black Twitter has taken the most active role in making sure Hammond's name and story are heard.

There are hundreds of tweets ... Some simply speak to the tragedy of Hammond's death. Others find irony in the fact that the only significant response is coming from those who have been accused -- largely by white people -- of divisiveness in their efforts to call attention to the value of black lives. Their words now stand in stark contrast to what many of their white peers are doing: absolutely nothing.

Read more here.

Is the reason this hasn’t gotten much national attention because Hammond is white:

Saying Hammond’s death is being ignored because he was white would be an oversimplification, said Meredith Clark, an assistant professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas who is conducting a research project on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police have not released video

Clark said the absence of a compelling video or a history of brutality complaints involving the Seneca Police Department, not Hammond's race, was the main reason the story has remained low-profile.

Although the lack of attention paid by the mainstream media and on social media has caused some to suggest Hammond’s case would have received more attention if he were black, researchers in the social justice field believe the story is not being ignored, but rather is spreading 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. “In that case, Hammond fits right in. It’ll just be a matter of time, but we haven’t heard of prior complaints about the police force where he was.”

Read more here.