Zachary Hammond death: Shooting of unarmed white teenager by police officer sparks debate over 'lack of outrage' in America

Zachary Hammond, 19, was shot dead by a police officer during a drugs bust

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The Independent US

The death of an unarmed white teenager who was shot by a white police officer in South Carolina has sparked a debate as to why the incident has not generated the same outrage as the deaths of other unarmed black Americans.

Zachary Hammond, 19, was on a date with Tori Morton, 23, when he was shot twice in the back by a police officer last month.

The young couple were in a car at a drive-through at Hardee’s restaurant when approached by the officer, who was in his car, as part of a drugs bust.

The teenager was shot by the officer through his open car window.

Mr Hammond died, while his date – who police believed to be carrying drugs – was arrested and charged with possessing 10 grams of cannabis, according to the Washington Post

But the killing has not attracted the same attention as other high profile shootings of young unarmed men by police across the country.

The Hammond family’s lawyer has said it is because it was a “white on white” killing.

Eric Bland told the newspaper: “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.

“The hypocrisy that has been shown toward this is really disconcerting.  The issue should never be ‘what is the colour of the victim?’ 

“The issue should be: ‘why was an unarmed teen gunned down in a situation where deadly force was not even justified?”

He added: “They’re called the civil rights organisations, they’re not called the black rights organisations.  The colour of his skin should not matter. 

“White-on-white crime does not get the same impact as white-on-black crime.

“All people need to be outraged by this.  All people need to be asking the hard questions.”

Police have said that the officer was a victim of “attempted murder” by Mr Hammond, who was driving the car the couple were in, the Washington Post reports.

It is claimed the teenager was driving the car towards the police officer while he was trying to stop the couple.

Police have now revealed the name of the officer, Mark Tiller, after initially refusing to do so following a number of Freedom of Information Act requests.

Thom Berry, a spokesman for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which is carrying out an independent investigation into the incident, has said there was dashboard video camera footage which “at some point in time… will become  public record,” the New York Times reports.

Last year, protests erupted in cities across America after the killing of an 18-year-old unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. 

A grand jury decided not to charge the officer for the death of Michael Brown, who was shot at least seven times after the police officer encountered him walking with his friend in the street.

Unrest also followed the shooting of another black 18-year-old in Berkeley, two miles from where Mr Brown was killed, last year.

Walter Scott, a black man who was stopped because of a broken tail-light on his car, was shot dead earlier this year by a white police officer in North Charleston. He was fired at eight times.

And last month, a white police officer was charged with murder for shooting dead an unarmed black man he encountered during a routine traffic stop.