|Zachary Hammond - another U.S. teenager killed by police|
His parents are making national headlines because they're suggesting the media doesn't seem to be paying much attention to their son's death because he was white.
As an amateur citizen-journalist, I blog under the proverbial radar of mass media so I certainly can't speak for the mainstream media, but I do consume quite a bit of it so I wanted to share a couple thoughts.
First off, the media IS paying attention to this story.
And not just here in America where The Washington Past and The New York Times are both on this story, but over in the UK where the Independent is just one of the British media outlets covering it, to as far away as Russia where RT.com has been covering the story as well.
While I absolutely agree with the teenage victim's parent's Paul and Angie Hammond that their son's story didn't morph into a major story in the week after the incident occurred, I don't view it as a case of the media (or the public) not caring about the story at all.
|Ten-year Seneca PD Lt. Mark Tiller and his K-9 dog|
But in terms of the amount of media coverage, and how quickly it materialized, it's true it didn't immediately blow up into a front-page national story in the days immediately following the incident, but I think that was more of a case of really bad timing.
Zachary Hammond was shot and killed on the evening of Sunday July 26th, just seven days after African-American motorist Samuel Dubose was shot in the head at point blank range by former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing.
The media headlines that week were totally focused on the body-cam footage of the incident that had been released at the behest of the prosecutor, who was so shocked at Tensing's actions that he insisted the body-cam footage be released publicly - in no small part to make clear that these were the actions of an individual campus cop and not the Cincinnati Police Department.
By Thursday July 30th when I posted a blog about the Dubose incident, that was THE focus on social and mainstream media that week as the clip of his death was viewed millions of times on Youtube and was being mentioned in national, local and global media day and night.
It's also important to note that two weekends before Hammond was killed in South Carolina, the death of Sandra Bland took place in Texas on Friday July 10th.
By the time I blogged about that story a week later on July 17th, again, video footage taken from the dash-cam of Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia's cruiser revealing both video and audio of what led to the confrontation and Bland's arrest was THE story of the moment - millions of people around the globe were watching, sharing and commenting on the video which clearly showed trooper Encinia's demeanor and actions.
That's one of the major differences in these three cases.
|Police tape surrounds the scene in SC where Hammond died.|
But the night Zachary Hammond was killed in the parking lot of that Hardee's (pictured left), America was already riveted by two different cases of police misconduct in which innocent, unarmed motorists had lost their lives.
Given the fact they have insisted that he was out on a first date and was unarmed, it's completely understandable that Hammond's poor parents would be upset that the death of their son didn't garner the kind of attention Sandra Bland's death received.
But remember, no video of any part of this incident has been released as of yet. No security camera footage from the Hardee's that might have shown what happened in the parking lot.
Nor has the public yet had a chance to see police dash-cam or body-cam footage from Seneca police officer Mark Tiller either.
That footage might shed some insight and perspective into what happened between the time that Toni Morton (the 23-year-old girl Hammond was with at the time of the shooting) tried to sell the small amount of marijuana she had in her possession to undercover agent of the Seneca PD - and the time that the officer approached the car and shot Hammond twice.
As I write this, there's been no definitive comprehensive statement from the officer who shot Hammond about what happened and the sequence of events that led to his killing the unarmed teenager.
Was he "threatened" by a 19-year old teenager sitting in a car where a tiny amount of weed had just been sold by a 23-year old girl?
Did it really make sense for Seneca PD to have some kind of undercover "sting operation" set up for under 10 grams of weed that could easily fit in your pocket?
Regardless, Tiller is claiming self-defense.
Seneca police claim Hammond tried to run Tiller down with his car as the officer approached the vehicle, but the results from a private autopsy requested by Hammond's parents show that the teenager was shot in the side and in the back - so how could he have been driving towards officer Mark Tiller when he was shot?
Remember, Ray Tensing said nearly the same thing about Samuel Dubose - claiming Dubose was dragging him along as he tried to escape; until the body-cam showed Dubose had his hands up when he was shot and the car only moved after Tensing shot him in the head.
When 50-year old Walter Scott was shot in the back multiple times by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager back in April, his initial claims of feeling "threatened" were quickly exposed as lies when not only dashboard video of the incident showing the initial traffic stop was released - a bystander happened to be nearby filming the pursuit and caught the image of Slager shooting a man in the back as he ran away.
So while Hammond's grieving parents want answers, I respectfully think it would be far more productive for them to devote their energy and actions towards demanding the release of any dash-cam or body-cam video from the Seneca Police Department; or any parking lot video taken by a security camera at the Hardee's.
I just don't think it's fair for them to "expect" some kind of public reaction when the public hasn't seen what happened; or make the kind of judgment that the public or the media doesn't care because Zachary Hammond wasn't African-America - we care and we want to know the facts.
Public outrage and civic action needs to start at the local community level, and the Hammonds have expressed disappointment that they haven't seen more from people in their local community or local politicians weigh in; a rally for justice for Zachary Hammond scheduled for August 15th was being organized by a group called Put Down The Guns Now Young People - so there are people standing up.
Like so many other teens whose lives have been cut short by the actions of police officers in recent months, Zachary Hammond was unarmed when he was shot twice and killed.
And like so many other cases that have garnered national attention, the only reason the Seneca police even encountered Hammond in the first place was because of a relatively minor completely non-violent violation.
To me this incident is not only highlights the need for national reforms of use-of-force procedures and the mandatory use of body-cams for all police officers, it also bolsters the argument for legalization of marijuana in this country.
Do we really want police shooting people for under 10 grams of weed in this country?
The world hasn't yet been able to see video of the incident, but the world is getting tired of seeing American police officers fatally shooting unarmed suspects for things that shouldn't even warrant a ticket.
We'll know more when video of the incident is released to the public, but regardless of skin color, no unarmed American teenager out on a first date on a warm July evening with a girl who has a little bit of pot on her should end up dead; let alone at the hands of an officer of the law.
That's not protecting and serving anyone.