Darrien Hunt


Darrien Hunt
Artwork by Howard Barry of St Louis, Missouri http://howard-barry.artistwebsites.com/ or follow Howard on twitter (@hbcreative) or check out Howard’s “big pic” experiment on instagram (@hbcreative)

Darrien

UPDATE: 10-4-14
The audio recording of the 911 call that lead to the killing of a 22-year-old Utah man may contradict what cops initially said about the incident.

The Guardian reports that Saratoga Springs Police previously said they were called to a strip mall to investigate a “suspicious individual” carrying a sword. But the 911 call (which can be heard above) mentions nothing about Hunt being suspicious.

The caller said Hunt was “just walking” around the strip mall. The Guardian notes that, under Utah laws, Hunt would be legally allowed to carry a sword, even if it were real. The sword was a replica, according to Hunt’s family.

Police have said Hunt was killed after he “lunged” at officers after a confrontation outside a bank. But witnesses said Hunt was running away as shots were fired and the Hunt’s family lawyer said an independent autopsy showed the 22-year-old African-American was shot six times from behind. Lawyer Randall Edwards said the fatal shot hit Hunt in the back.

Edwards also said Hunt was likely role-playing as an anime character when he was confronted by police.

Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andrew Burton told Fox Saratoga Springs the fact that Hunt was walking around with a sword was enough for the 911 operator to label his actions “suspicious.”

“She felt like the caller indicated, ‘Hey the guy’s got a samurai sword,’ which is not something you run into very often so that bit of information caused some concern,” Burton said.

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UPDATE: 11-4-14

No charges for Utah cops who shot man holding cosplay sword six times in back

Posecutors in Utah have determined that two police officers were justified in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt.

The Saratoga Springs police officers — Cpl. Matt Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson – shot Hunt six times Sept. 10 after responding to two 911 calls about a man walking with a samurai-style sword along a commercial boulevard.

An autopsy revealed that Hunt, who was carrying a katana sword his family said was used for cosplay, had his back turned to the officers when all six shots were fired.

An attorney for Hunt’s family said they still don’t know how many shots were fired and in which direction, reported The Salt Lake Tribune, but he noted that Schauerhamer paused to reload his weapon during the shooting.
“There are some unmistakable facts that are not in dispute,” said attorney Robert Sykes. “I reread the state’s autopsy this morning. Every one of the six shots came from behind.”

But the Utah County Attorney said Monday that no charges would be filed against the two officers, who each shot Hunt three times after he swung the sword at them.

Hunt fled after Schauerhamer started shooting, and the officers continued shooting as they chased him toward a nearby business.

“I don’t find it reasonable to require that [the officers] permit a person who is armed and has most immediately attempted to wound or kill police officers to escape into a presently populated retail area,” said Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman.

Hunt’s family has described the cosplay sword as a toy, but Buhman said it had a sharp tip and blade and was not “intentionally dulled.”

Buhman said the first two shots likely wounded Hunt, who “continued to carry in his hand the unsheathed samurai-type sword.”

He said police feared Hunt would “hack the first person he saw” as he fled the officers.

“A peace officer … is justified in using deadly force when…the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person,” Saratoga Springs police said in a statement.

Investigators aren’t sure why Hunt’s demeanor changed and became violent.

One witness said Hunt appeared to move his hands “like he was laughing” and spoke with one officer for up to 60 seconds before swinging the sword “very hard” at the second officer, who had just pulled up in a squad car.

The county attorney read from an affidavit by a second witness, who told investigators “the guy appeared to be laughing and smiling and then pulled out the sword and took a swipe at the interviewing officer and began to run.”

But that witness the affidavit misrepresented his statement to police and that he saw Hunt unsheathe the sword – but he did not swing it.

“I don’t know what to make of it,” said Leonard “John” Zogg. “I was kind of surprised.”

Buhman said the police didn’t have enough time to attempt nonlethal force because the 37-second incident escalated so quickly and without provocation.

“The officers had to do with what was most immediately available to them — that was their firearms,” Buhman said.

Hunt’s family intends to file a civil lawsuit against the city and its police department.

Prosecutors are considering misdemeanor charges against Susan Hunt, his mother, following an Oct. 19 confrontation with police near the shooting site.

Her attorney said he knew few details about the case, but the Desert News reported that she may have slapped an officer who stopped another person.

Susan Hunt, who is white, has said she believes police killed her son because he was black.
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UPDATE: 9-17-14
Darrien Hunt Update: Authorities Change Account Of Police Shooting
Authorities have changed their account of the shooting of Darrien Hunt, a 22-year-old black man, who was shot and killed last Thursday while carrying a sword. Tim Taylor, the chief deputy attorney for Utah County, is now saying that it is unclear whether or not Hunt lunged at police when he was shot.

Initially, he said in a statement Saturday: “When the officers made contact with Mr. Hunt, he brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword, at which time Mr. Hunt was shot.” But he told the Guardian Monday Hunt allegedly lunged at officers outside a bank, several dozen yards from where he was ultimately killed.
This is the latest fatal police shooting to raise questions about police and racial profiling.

Hunt was allegedly first shot at by police while outside the bank, but it remains unclear if he was struck by a bullet at that point. Hunt then headed north and was shot several times outside a Panda Express before collapsing. “Whether or not the individual lunged again at point two, the other location, I don’t know about that,” Taylor said.

Randall Edwards, an attorney for Hunt’s family, said in an email late on Monday: “This appears to be a major change in the official story.” Hunt’s mother, Susan, said she is now afraid for her surviving son and two daughters. She has accused police of killing her son because of his race. She is white and her husband is black.

“They killed my son because he’s black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away,” Hunt told the Deseret News.

The family’s attorney said Hunt was shot six times from behind, and the family had a private autopsy taken that shows he was hit once in a shoulder, once in the back, once in an elbow, twice in a leg and once in a hand.

“The shot that killed Darrien, which was straight in the back, did not have an exit wound, it raises the question as to how you can lunge at someone and be shot in the back at the same time.”
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UPDATE: 9-17-14
Darrien Hunt: new surveillance footage may shed light on police shooting 

Video from Utah bank could answer question of whether Hunt was shot from behind while running away from officers

Surveillance footage from a drive-through bank in Utah where a 22-year-old black man is alleged to have lunged at police officers with a sword, before fleeing and being shot to death, has been obtained by investigators.

Recordings made by surveillance cameras at the restaurant where Darrien Hunt eventually died last week have also been separately provided to authorities. The footage may shed light on whether Hunt was shot from behind while running away, as his family’s attorney alleges.

Hunt was killed at a strip mall in Saratoga Springs last Wednesday, following an encounter with two officers responding to a 911 call reporting that a man carrying a samurai-style sword was acting suspiciously.

Utah County prosecutors initially said that Hunt, who was outside a branch of Cyprus Credit Union, “brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword, at which time Mr Hunt was shot”. However, on Tuesday they confirmed that Hunt fled several dozen yards to the north before being shot multiple times and collapsing outside a Panda Express restaurant.

Asked on Tuesday whether the drive-through forecourt where Hunt and the officers had their first encounter was covered by surveillance cameras, Jessica Taylor, a spokeswoman for Cyprus, said in an email: “Yes. The credit union has external security cameras on our branch in Saratoga Springs.”
“We provided footage from our outdoor camera to the authorities for the times requested,” said Taylor. “Cyprus is cooperating with all requests from the authorities.”

Thien Ho, a spokeswoman for Panda Express restaurants, said in an email: “At the request of the Saratoga Springs Police Department, we provided video surveillance footage.” Ho did not respond to repeated questions on whether the area where Hunt died was watched by surveillance cameras.

The shooting is being investigated by the county’s “officer-involved shooting protocol team”, which comprises officers from several different forces and agencies. Following this inquiry, the county attorney’s office is due to “review these findings and issue a statement”.

The two officers involved in the shooting have not been identified by Saratoga Springs police department. They have been placed on paid administrative leave. One of the officers was scheduled to be interviewed on Tuesday. The other is due to be interviewed on Thursday.

Hunt’s mother, Susan, who is white, has accused the police of killing her son because of his race. According to the 2010 US census, the population of Saratoga Springs is about 93% white and 0.5% black.

“They killed my son because he’s black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away,” Mrs Hunt has said. Tim Taylor, the deputy chief attorney for Utah County, has said there is “no indication that race played any role”.

UPDATE: 9-16-14
Police killed a black man dressed up like an Anime character

For the second time in two months, a black man has been shot and killed by police officers while holding a toy weapon.

The Utah police fatally shot 22-year-old Darrien Hunt on Wednesday. He was holding a fake samurai sword, which led some to believe he was cosplaying, or costume playing, as Mugen from the popular anime Samurai Champloo.

Hunt

Hunt was killed outside the Panda Express in Sarasota Springs, Utah, after police responded to a complaint of a “suspicious individual” with a sword.

The initial police statement claimed that Hunt had “brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword” before they shot him.

Hunt’s family, however, is claiming that a private autopsy shows Hunt was shot in the back numerous times, and that multiple witnesses saw him running away from the police.

Hunt’s case is eerily similar to another recent police shooting that took place in the toy department of Walmart. On Aug. 5, John Crawford III from Dayton, Oh., was also shot and killed by police who mistook his toy weapon for a real one.

In both cases, police responded to a call of suspicious behavior. In Crawford’s case, witnesses stated that he was talking on his cellphone and leaning on a toy rifle that he had picked up while shopping in the store. Witnesses speculated that Crawford did not hear police directions for him to turn around, since he was shot while still holding his phone.

Both Utah and Ohio have open-carry laws, but the “weapon” in both of these cases was a toy—in Crawford’s case an unpackaged BB gun, in Hunt’s case a blunt-edged fake replica of a katana, or Japanese sword. Even if Hunt’s sword had been real, it is legal to publicly carry a sword under Utah’s open-carry law.

The original police statement claimed that “there is currently no indication that race played any part in the confrontation” that left Hunt dead. However, given that Saratoga Springs is a Ferguson-sized small town that is 93 percent white, many are skeptical that its 65-member police force has been completely forthcoming about the incident.

On Sunday, the Saratoga Springs police department issued a now-deleted Facebook post that called for patience with the investigation into the incident, claiming that news reports about the incident had been exaggerated:

Everyone should remember that the news outlets have ratings they need to gain. They don’t report facts. They use innuendo, opinion and rumor and then report it as fact. The same thing happens here on FB and other social media. The real facts are being determined by an independent investigation, and not in a rushed or haphazard manner. When those facts are gathered and analyzed, they will be reviewed by independent legal authorities. There is no cover up and there is no corruption. While this process is played out, we ask all persons to have patience with the process and allow the process that has been legally established to go forth. No one has been charged with any crime. The law has established that there must be probable cause for charges to be filed. Then even when and if charges were filed, in this country, all persons are innocent until proven guilty. This protection is extended to all persons, including cops.

Hunt’s mother, Susan Hunt, told the Deseret News that a picture she received from a witness taken just before the shooting shows her son standing peacefully, the sword nowhere to be seen. In the picture, he is reportedly flanked on both sides by policemen. Moments later, he would be dead.

“No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away,” she said.

Witnesses who saw Hunt before the shooting were divided on what his behavior was before the incident, with one witness saying he appeared calm and others claiming he seemed distressed. Hunt’s outfit at the time he was killed indicated that he may have been cosplaying as Mugen from Samurai Champloo, a character who is known for his erratic behavior and large sword.

Ironically, although Mugen is a samurai, near the end of the series he ultimately walks away from violence.

Tragically for Hunt, the chance to walk away never came.

UPDATE: A new photo of Hunt taken before the altercation has been published by the Guardian and ABC. Judging from his appearance, it’s unlikely he was cosplaying as Mugen and that any similarities were coincidental. We have updated this story and our headline for clarity.

UPDATE: 9-16-14
Utah authorities alter account of Darrien Hunt shooting by police
hunt2

Family lawyer says bullets came from behind and criticizes ‘almost incomprehensible’ delay in questioning officers involved.

Authorities in Utah have altered their account of how a 22-year-old black man was killed by police, after an attorney for the man’s family alleged that he was shot repeatedly from behind by officers while running away.

The authorities also said that the two police officers involved in the shooting of Darrien Hunt last Wednesday had not yet been interviewed about the incident. The attorney for Hunt’s family described this delay as “almost incomprehensible”.

Hunt died outside a Panda Express restaurant at a strip mall in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday morning following an encounter with two police officers who were responding to a 911 call reporting a man with a samurai-style sword acting suspiciously.

After several days of silence Tim Taylor, the chief deputy attorney for Utah county, said in a statement on Saturday: “When the officers made contact with Mr Hunt, he brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword, at which time Mr Hunt was shot.”

However, Taylor confirmed Hunt was in fact alleged to have lunged at the officers outside a bank several dozen yards away from where he ultimately died. While it was outside the bank that Hunt was first “shot at” by police, Taylor said, it was not clear whether he was struck on that occasion.

Hunt then headed north and was shot several more times before eventually collapsing outside the Panda Express, according to Taylor. He said it was not clear if there were any further threatening moves. “Whether or not the individual lunged again at point two, the other location, I don’t know about that,” Taylor said.

Randall Edwards, an attorney for Hunt’s family, said in an email late on Monday: “This appears to be a major change in the official story”.

hunt 3
The new account confirmed by Taylor on Monday appears to potentially match with remarks made by a witness to local media shortly after the shooting.

Jocelyn Hansen, who was filling her car at a gas station opposite the bank, has said that seconds beforehand she saw Hunt and the officers in conversation. She said that after taking a photograph of the scene, which showed Hunt smiling and with his hands at his sides, she got into her car in order to leave and then heard gunfire.

“I looked up. There were shots and there was a chase, He turned and was running away from the police officers,” Hansen added. She could not be reached on Monday.

The altered official account also follows an angry response by the Saratoga Springs police department to media reports of claims that Hunt may have been shot while running away.

The two officers involved in the incident have not been identified by Saratoga Springs police department. They have been placed on paid administrative leave. An investigation is being carried out by the county’s “officer-involved shooting protocol team”, which includes officers from several different forces and agencies, according to Taylor, who said the county attorney’s office would “review these findings and issue a statement”.

“We haven’t even interviewed the officers yet,” said Taylor. “We’ve talked briefly with them just to kind of get an idea of what the scene was at the time.” He said officers were typically interviewed within 48-72 hours of a shooting. One is now scheduled to be interviewed on Tuesday and the other on Thursday, more than a week after the shooting, he said.

“I’m stunned. I find that almost incomprehensible,” Edwards, the attorney for Hunt’s family, said after being informed of this by the Guardian. “You want to speak with the officers almost immediately afterwards, when their memories are fresh and before they have had a chance to corroborate their stories.”

Taylor said the county attorney’s report would not be complete until his office received the findings of an autopsy that had completed by a state medical examiner’s office in Salt Lake county. He said that he expected this to take between six and seven weeks.

Edwards, the attorney for the family, said it was not clear whether the inquiry would be satisfactory. “Do we trust the police to do a thorough investigation to find any kind of wrongdoing, and to ultimately punish the wrongdoer? I think the jury is still out on this one.”

The attorney said he and the Hunt family would wait until the report before deciding their next move. “If it appears that there was some sort of criminal activity on the part of the officer, obviously we would like to have that followed through with”.

UPDATE: 9-16-14
Attorney: Darrien Hunt Shot 6 Times While Running Away
SALT LAKE CITY — A young black man who was fatally shot last week by Utah police lunged at the officers with a real sword that had a 2.5-foot steel blade, prosecutors said Monday.

Reports from Darrien Hunt’s family that the 22-year-old was carrying a toy sword are not accurate, said Utah County Chief Deputy Attorney Tim Taylor.

“It wasn’t plastic, it wasn’t wood,” Taylor said. “It appears to be a real samurai sword.”

Darrien Hunt 2
UPDATE: 10-28-14
Official Autopsy: Darrien Hunt, Black Man Killed By Utah Police, Was Shot In The Back
Darrien Hunt was killed by Utah police died of multiple gunshot wounds, including several in the back of his body, according to an autopsy released Tuesday.

The official state autopsy documents six gunshot wounds on Darriens body and finds at least four of the shots entered from behind, generally confirming the results of an independent autopsy released by his family. No drugs were found in his system.

A narrative in the autopsy states an officer fired three shots when Hunt charged at him, swinging the sword, as the officer got out of his car. Hunt ran away and police fired four more times as they chased him.

An attorney for Hunt’s family, Robert Sykes, disputed that account, saying a picture taken by a bystander shows Hunt smiling as he talked to two officers.

An investigation into whether the shooting was legally justified could be complete within a week, said Tim Taylor, chief deputy at the Utah County Attorney’s Office. Taylor said the trajectory of the shots found by the autopsy indicates Hunt was turning away when they were fired, but investigators are still looking at exactly what happened during the encounter.

The autopsy shows four of the gunshots found in Hunt’s body traveled back to front. A fifth shot that struck his left arm appears to have come from the front and a sixth traveled downward after entering the back of his forearm.

“I think that means they were pursing him, he was running away. He was probably sacred to death”.

Hunt was shot Sept. 10 as he walked around a strip mall in Saratoga Springs dressed as a Japanese anime character and carrying a sword that his family said was decorative. Police said someone called 911 after seeing Hunt with the metal sword, and officers fired after Hunt lunged at them with it.

Hunt’s family has said Saratoga Springs police used excessive force and treated him differently because he was black. Police say race wasn’t a factor.

The officers involved were identified as CPL. MATTHEW SCHAUERHAMER AND OFFICER NICHOLAS JUDSON.

UPDATE: Nov. 3, 2014
Prosecutors: Darrien Hunt Shooting By Police Was Justified

Darrien HUnt Utah prosecutors announced Monday that officers were justified in fatally shooting a young man who was wielding a sword as part of a Japanese anime costume.

Two Saratoga Springs officers feared for their lives and the safety of others in the bustling shopping center where the encounter occurred when they fired seven shots at 22-year-old Darrien Hunt on Sept. 10, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said Monday in a news conference.

The shooting has prompting accusations from Hunt’s family that he was treated differently because of his race and that his actions didn’t warrant deadly force. Hunt was black and the two officers are white.

he Hunt family plans to file a civil rights and wrongful lawsuit, attorney Bob Sykes said, who told reporters Monday that a jury would disagree the finding that the shooting was justified.

The fatal encounter was triggered by somebody calling in a report of a suspicious person walking with a sword in Saratoga Springs, a middle-class city south of Salt Lake City.

Police Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson spotted Hunt and began having a normal conversation with him, Buhman said. Hunt said he wanted a ride to a nearby city but when they asked him to give up his sword, he refused and his demeanor changed. That’s when he swung the three-foot metal sword at them, Buhman said.

“This happened so quickly, violently and without provocation the officers had to use what was most immediately available to them, which was their firearms,” Buhman said. He said the investigation uncovered no trace that race or ethnicity played a role in the incident.

The findings of the investigation were based on interviews with the officers involved and three witnesses, he said. Buhman said after he was initially hit by gunfire, Hunt fled and disobeyed orders to drop the sword.

“It would have been a matter of seconds before he could have reached someone else,” he said.

Sykes disputed that account, saying it was unlikely that Hunt was aggressive.

“I think it’s a whitewash. I think it’s an exaggeration. I think they ignored good hard evidence to the contrary,” he said.

The Hunt family hopes a lawsuit would bring changes in police training, he said.

“So many young men and young women are being shot down and killed by police officers improperly using deadly force,” he said.

He said the sword Hunt used was decorative, but Buhman argued could have hurt someone.

At the news conference in Provo, officials showed the narrow, metal, three-foot long sword.

“The tip is sharp and the blade, maybe it’s not sharpened to Ginsu or chef standards, but it’s sharp enough to cut,” Buhman said. “It’ is not dulled. ”

Investigators don’t know why Hunt had the sword or swung it at officers, Buhman said.

A search warrant released last week showed that Hunt had been fired from his job after he didn’t come to work, and his mother had told him he needed to get a job or leave the house by the end of the week. His brother told investigators Hunt had been making and using a hallucinogenic drug and was “obsessed” with a girl on Facebook who wasn’t interested in him, according to the warrant filed in state court.

The morning of his death, a friend said he posted a message on Facebook saying, “I have a sword and I’m going to get shot,” investigators wrote.

An autopsy shows Hunt didn’t have drugs in his system when he died of multiple gunshot wounds, including several to the back of his body.

Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andrew Burton said in a statement he’s pleased with the findings, while recognizing that the ruling may not bring closure to the Hunt family.

“It is our hope that the community can now move forward in the healing process,” Burton said.

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