(CN) – The Justice Department has begun a civil rights investigation into the fatal shooting by police of a white teen while he was eating ice cream outside a Hardee’s restaurant while on a first date.
Zachary Hammond, 19, was killed on July 26 during what officers in Seneca, South Carolina later described as an attempted drug bust.
According to published accounts, several officers converged on Hammond’s car, and one of them, Lt. Mark Tiller, fired two shots through an open side window, killing Hammond instantly.
Seneca police said Hammond drove toward Tiller after the car was surrounded, and the officer felt his life was threatened.
Hammond’s parents and their attorneys have questioned the police account of the teenager’s death, and have called for authorities to release dashboard video of the incident. So far, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has refused to do so, saying that its investigation is ongoing.
On Wednesday night, the Justice Department announced that its civil rights division based in Columbia, S.C. has begun an investigation of the case. Both Tiller and Hammond are white.
“The investigation will run parallel to the state’s investigation,” the department said in a written statement.
Shortly thereafter, the Hammond family release a statement of its own, saying it ” hopes and trusts that the United States Justice Department will investigate the death of their son with the same intensity and thoroughness as it has demonstrated in other interracial settings.”
Seneca is a community of about 8,000 people 35 miles southwest of Greenville.
Mindy Friddle of Courthouse News contributed to this report.
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