SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah -- The attorney for Saratoga Springs police spoke out Wednesday before filing a response to a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Darrien Hunt, who was shot and killed by police in September after police allege he swung a sword at officers.
Attorney Heather White said race did not play a factor in the incident, which occurred September 10. She said Hunt’s actions dictated what occurred. Hunt's family has said they believe race was a factor, as Hunt is half black.
“We are not saying that Darrien Hunt is a bad person, but he made some bad decisions that day,” White said.
White laid out arguments that she filed in federal court Wednesday, and she claims Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer and officer Nicholas Judson responded to a 911 report of someone suspicious walking near Wal-Mart on Redwood Road.
White said the two officers spotted Darrien Hunt, who was holding a samurai sword, and struck up a conversation with him. They asked him to put the weapon on the hood of the car, but he declined.
“When he refused, the officers engaged in conversation trying to persuade him to do so, but they did not threaten him with arrest,” White said.
Police have said witnesses reported seeing Hunt lunge at officers with the sword, though Hunt’s family and their attorney dispute that.
“When Mr. Hunt swung the sword at them, they had every reason to believe he was not only a danger to them, but to others as well,” White said.
As shots were fired, Hunt began running toward an area that houses a convenience store, an auto parts store and a Wal-Mart parking lot. Police said they feared for the safety of the people in that area, and as Hunt fled in that direction officers fired at Hunt--who was hit a total of six times. White said if Hunt had dropped the sword, then he would still be alive today.
“He was not shot because he was running away,” White said. “He was shot because the officers felt he who had just swung this weapon at a police officer and was heading toward where other innocent people were."
Robert Sykes, the attorney for Hunt’s family, disagreed with that narrative.
“We believe there was no basis to shoot Darrien in the back, six times,” he said "…How is it that a person who is being respectful, not using foul language, not getting in officer's face, you know? Not swinging at them, you know? How is it that person ends up dead, 37 seconds later--shot in the back?”
The legal process regarding the case is expected to be a lengthy one, and the case may not go to trial for as long as 18 to 24 months.