The results of the official state autopsy on Darrien Hunt, 22, the young man who was shot multiple times by Utah police while wearing a Japanese anime costume and carrying a replica samurai-type sword, were released today by state officials. The autopsy found that the young man, who is black, died from six gunshots, and that four of the shots struck him in the back.
The official results corroborate the findings of an independent autopsy conducted at the request of Hunt’s family, who maintain that officers treated him differently because of his race. On Tuesday, Hunt’s mother said that in her opinion, her son would have gone unnoticed in his costume and unharmed “if it wasn’t someone with an afro.” Utah police say that Hunt’s race was not a factor in the shooting. The officers involved were Officer Nicholas Judson and Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer, both of whom are white. Hunt’s mother wants the involved officers to be held responsible for the death of her son and to be prevented from having firearms or working as police officers.
Hunt was walking around a Sarasota Springs, Utah, strip mall on Sept. 10 while wearing an anime costume consisting of blue pants and a red shirt, which is similar to the clothing worn by the character
Mugen from Samurai Champloo. Hunt was carrying a two-and-a-half foot steel Samurai-style sword which his family claims was only decorative, as it had no sharp edge and was purchased at a gift shop. Hunt’s aunt said that a witness saw Hunt wearing earbuds and pretending to be a samurai, “doing spins and stuff.” Police responded to the mall after receiving a 911 call regarding a man carrying a sword.
The autopsy details that Hunt swung the sword and lunged toward an officer who was exiting his car, whereupon the officer fired three shots. As Hunt attempted to flee, police fired four more shots while in pursuit.
Robert Sykes, lawyer for the Hunt family, says that the official account of the shooting is untrue, and that a bystander took a photo during the incident that depicts Hunt smiling and talking to two police officers. The chief deputy of the Utah County Attorney’s Office, Tim Taylor, says that Hunt did in fact speak to the police when they arrived and asked them to give him a ride.
The county attorney is currently investigating the case in order to determine if the officers were legally justified in shooting Hunt. They expect the case to be completed in the next week.
Taylor says the autopsy showed that the angle of the shots themselves are consistent with Hunt turning away from the officers as they fired. Four of the wounds were caused by a bullet traveling from the back of Hunt’s body to the front. A gunshot in his left arm is consistent with having come from the front, as is a sixth shot which entered the back of his forearm and traveled in a downward direction. Sykes believes that the gunshot findings indicate that Hunt was attempting to flee the police as they chased him, and that he was “probably scared to death.” No drugs were discovered in Hunt’s system. When his own investigation is complete, Sykes intends to file a lawsuit against the Utah city.
The U.S. Census lists the population of Sarasota Springs, Utah, as 23,000, of which 93 percent is white and less than 1 percent is black. The town is upscale and located south of Salt Lake City. Both officers involved in the shooting are currently on paid administrative leave.
By Jennifer Pfalz