Published November 29, 2015
An attorney for the family of a black man who was killed by Utah police said Friday that he will ask the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate the shooting.
Lawyer Randall Edwards said at a news conference that it's likely 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was dressed as a Japanese anime character and role-playing when the shooting occurred. That, he says, could explain why Hunt was carrying a sword.
Edwards also accused Saratoga Springs police of using excessive force and treating Darrien Hunt differently because he was black.
Authorities, however, say race played no role in the shooting. They say officers were reacting to Hunt lunging at them with the steel sword.
Hunt was killed on Sept. 10 in a strip mall after police responded to a call about a suspicious man with a sword.
The Utah County Sheriff's Office, which is overseeing the investigation of the shooting, said it was learning more about what happened but has no indication that race was a factor.
In a statement, prosecutors said it will be several weeks until their review is complete. They declined to provide further details and have not released the names of the officers involved.
The office did, however, release a photo of the sword Hunt carried that day. It shows a blade that is 2 1/2 feet long with a point. The Hunt family previously described it as a play sword with plastic blade.
Edwards said it a decorative sword, not a weapon. He also said an independent autopsy done for the family shows Darrien Hunt was shot six times from behind, with the fatal shot hitting Hunt square in the back.
Authorities have not disclosed the results of an autopsy by the coroner's office or discussed the shooting in detail.
Owen Jackson, a spokesman for the city of Saratoga Springs, said officials would be issuing a statement later Friday about the accusations by Edwards.
The Department of Justice will review the request for an investigation when it is filed, agency spokeswoman Dena Iverson said.
Edwards said he has received several phone calls reporting civil rights violations and racial discrimination by police in Saratoga Springs. However, he did not provide the names of the people who called or dates and locations of the events.
"I just can't believe that this kid in the costume was somehow posing such a threat to the officers or everybody else that deadly force was the first and only option," Edwards said.
Darrien Hunt was remembered Thursday at a funeral as a shy, gentle man who loved art and music and was trying to navigate a difficult transition into adulthood. One family friend acknowledged Darrien Hunt didn't make all the right choices but said he had a kind heart and was trying to learn to be a responsible man.
Online court records show Hunt had previous encounters with Saratoga Springs police for a domestic violence dispute with a sibling and marijuana possession.
Hunt's mother, Susan Hunt, who is white, stood behind Edwards at the news conference alongside her sisters and spoke briefly, asking for authorities to tell her what really happened.
"All I see is my son being murdered and nobody wanting to come forward," Hunt said. "The police department hasn't shared anything with me."
Saratoga Springs is an upscale city of 23,000 people south of Salt Lake City. About 93 percent of residents are white and less than 1 percent black, U.S. Census figures show.