A public relations firm hired by the city of Seneca in the aftermath of the Zachary Hammond shooting last summer has been ordered to turn over all its documents related to the case to lawyers for the slain teenager’s family.
Hammond was shot and killed by a Seneca police officer in an attempted drug arrest and the city, the officer and the police chief have been sued by the family.
The city hired Complete Public Relations of Greenville because of the national attention and local media scrutiny the case was receiving.
Attorneys for the city had asked to quash a subpoena seeking the documents, mostly emails which the city argued should be shielded under attorney-client privilege.
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U.S. Magistrate Kevin F. McDonald issued an order Tuesday after reviewing the documents, concluding that no such privilege existed because the emails weren’t about legal advice.
“Rather, the documents here reveal communications regarding monitoring of the media for articles related to the case, drafting press releases and statements on behalf of the City of Seneca, answering media questions on behalf of the City of Seneca, and answering Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests to the City of Seneca, all of which are standard public relations services,” the judge wrote.
Eric Bland, attorney for the Hammonds, said he was pleased with the ruling and that it is “consistent with the public's right to know and full sunlight on the case.”
Hammond, 19, was shot by Lt. Mark Tiller at point-blank range through the driver's side window of Hammond's car as Tiller yelled for Hammond to stop in the parking lot of a Hardee’s restaurant. Tiller claimed he believed Hammond was trying to run over him.
Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams determined that Tiller’s actions didn’t meet the standard for criminal prosecution under state law, but federal authorities are continuing a criminal investigation, according to court documents.