Seneca, SC -- Although his son was arrested earlier this year for stealing drugs from a detention center, Seneca Police Chief John Covington holds a harsh double standard for the children of his own community. While failing the war on drugs at home, Chief Covington has recently accused a teenager of causing his own death during a routine marijuana sting. Instead of relying on empirical evidence, Covington is defending the officer who gunned down the 19-year-old and then lied in order to justify the shooting.
On January 5, 2014, Chief Covington’s son allegedly stole drugs from a woman being held at the Oconee County Detention Center in South Carolina. While on duty as a reserve officer with the Seneca Police Department, Officer Adam Covington stole 30 hydrocodone pills from an arrestee named Peggy Smith. The police chief’s son was arrested without incident and charged with theft of a controlled substance and misconduct in office. After receiving a suspension pending the outcome of the investigation, Officer Adam Covington resigned from the department in February.
In contrast, Chief Covington has recently defended the killing of a teen during a routine marijuana bust. On July 26, Zachary Hammond, 19, drove to a Hardee’s parking lot in Seneca with Tori Morton, 23. After an undercover cop had pulled up beside Hammond’s car to buy marijuana from Morton, a uniformed officer ran towards them with his gun drawn.
According to Chief Covington, Hammond drove toward the uniformed officer in an attempt to murder him. Fearing for his life, the unidentified uniformed officer shot Hammond twice at point blank range killing him. But according to witness statements and Hammond’s autopsy, the officer lied to justify killing the teen.
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After reviewing the shooting, the Hammond family’s attorney, Eric Bland, asserts that Hammond was shifting his car into park when someone shouted that Hammond had a gun. Hammond’s vehicle wasn’t moving when the officer’s bullets tore into his body. Although Chief Covington insisted that Hammond was not shot from behind, an autopsy report conducted by medical examiner James Fulcher, M.D. revealed that two bullets struck Hammond in the back of his left shoulder and his left side.
"Their findings are telling," Bland stated. "They directly contradict the narrative that Chief Covington has tried to shape in this matter. It was deceptive to state that Zachary was shot in the 'chest and shoulder.' It did not give it proper context. It implied that the officer shot Zachary from the front. He did not. The shots were clearly fired from the side to the rear of the vehicle through [the] driver’s open window at close range."
After the shooting, Morton was arrested for possession of marijuana. Upon searching Hammond and his vehicle, police discovered that the teenager had been unarmed and was not carrying any drugs. Covington has refused to release the name of the officer who killed Hammond. He has also refused to release the dashcam footage of the incident, arguably due to the fact that a number of officers South Carolina have claimed to fire at vehicles moving toward them only to be later proven wrong by such evidence.
During a routine traffic stop last month, Officer Ray Tensing gunned down Samuel DuBose and then lied in order to justify the killing. Officer Tensing attempted to cover up his crime by claiming that he was being dragged by DuBose’s car and nearly run over by the suspect. After reviewing Tensing’s body cam footage, a grand jury indicted him on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Although his son was arrested for stealing hydrocodone from a detention center under the color of authority, Chief Covington blindly believes that 19-year-old Zachary Hammond deserved to die for a marijuana bust. According to autopsy reports and witness statements, Hammond’s killer justified the shooting by falsely accusing the teen of attempted murder. By ignoring calls for transparency, Chief Covington appears to hold a double standard for his son and fellow officers while spitting in the faces of the community that he has sworn to serve and protect.