SALT LAKE CITY — To hear prosecutors tell it, Darrien Hunt lunged at officers with a “samurai-type sword” before he was killed.
To hear his family tell it, police shot the 22-year-old several times while he was running away. An independent autopsy proves he was shot from behind, his family’s attorney said.
And while there’s no consensus about what happened Wednesday morning, the case is already drawing comparisons to the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Hunt’s mother said she believes race played a role in her son’s death.
“They killed my son because he’s black,” Susan Hunt told KSL. “No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away.”
But the Utah County Attorney’s Office said there is “currently no indication that race played any role in the confrontation between Mr. Hunt and the police officer.”
“Police officers from the Saratoga Springs Police Department responded to a report of a suspicious individual walking around a local business with a ‘samurai-type’ sword,” Chief Deputy Tim Taylor of the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“When the officers made contact with Mr. Hunt, preliminary evidence suggests that Mr. Hunt brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword, at which time Mr. Hunt was shot.”
Hunt family attorney Randall Edwards challenged that version of events.
“An independent autopsy done at the behest of Darrien Hunt’s family reveals that he was shot numerous times, all from the rear,” Edwards said in a statement to the affiliate.
“This is consistent with statements made by witnesses on the scene, who report that Darrien was shot to death while running away from the police. It would appear difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile these facts with a story that Darrien was lunging toward the officers when he was shot.”
The County Attorney’s Office said the case is under investigation. Two officers have been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, KSL said.
While some have speculated that race played a role in the shooting deaths of Hunt and Brown, there’s one key difference between the two cases: Brown was unarmed when he was shot, and Hunt was reportedly carrying a 3-foot sword around a Panda Express restaurant and other businesses.
“I believe that maybe my son thought, ‘Maybe I’ll try to get a job at Panda, maybe this sword will impress them,’ ” Susan Hunt told KSL.
She said that the sword was purchased at a local Asian gift shop and that it could not actually cut anything.