Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah reviewing shooting of Darrien Hunt

Posted at 7:13 PM, Feb 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-20 23:56:07-05

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah is working with a division of the Department of Justice and the FBI to conduct a federal review of the shooting of Darrien Hunt, who was shot and killed by police in Saratoga Springs in September of 2014 after police say he lunged at officers while wielding a sword.

Robert Sykes, an attorney representing the Hunt family, received a letter from the organizations conducting the review saying they want Hunt's family and/or their representative to have the opportunity to provide them with any evidence they believe relevant to the review. The letter states the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah and the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division of the Criminal Section, is working with the FBI to complete the review.

Sykes said he thinks the review is a "very significant thing."

"I think they are taking what happened seriously," he said. "I'm glad to see it. I think what happened here was inexcusable. There was no reason for Darrien to be shot at or to be killed."

Sykes said he has filed "dozens and dozens" of civil right actions, and he said this is only the second time the Justice Department has investigated an action he's filed.

Owen Jackson, a spokesman for Saratoga Springs City, told FOX 13 News they, "welcome outside investigations by any agency."

Heather White, the attorney representing Saratoga Springs and the two officers, echoed that sentiment.

"The city welcomes the investigation," she said. "We have not been asked to provide any information as part of that review yet but are happy to cooperate with the Department of Justice if they ask."

FOX 13 News reached out to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Utah Friday, and spokesperson Melodie Rydalch said their office was not going to comment.

An evidence photo courtesy of the Utah County Attorney's Office showing the sword involved in the fatal shooting of Darrien Hunt

An evidence photo courtesy of the Utah County Attorney's Office showing the sword involved in the fatal shooting of Darrien Hunt

The shooting occurred September 10 of 2014. Police say Hunt lunged at officers with a samurai-style sword he had been carrying when police encountered him, but Hunt’s family has contested that claim. Police continued to fire at Hunt as he ran away on foot, stating his proximity to businesses and people while carrying the sword made him a possible threat.

The letter did not offer a specific time frame for the federal review of the incident, but it requested evidence from Sykes and the Hunt family with a deadline of March 25.

The Utah County Attorney's Office ruled the shooting justified. However, Sykes is representing the Hunt family in a civil wrongful death lawsuit that seeks $2 million in damages. Earlier this year he spoke with FOX 13 News, saying he believes Hunt was not a threat.

Sykes said in January: “How far is a kid that’s been hit in the arm, and the hip and shoulder going to go? It was unreasonable of him to finish Darrien off as he was falling. There was no threat to anybody, and it was an unjustified shooting. It was illegal and these officers should be held to account.”

White has previously responded to  that and other claims made in the lawsuit.

“He was not shot because he was running away,” White said earlier this year. “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.”

FOX 13 News will have more information as it becomes available. For more of FOX 13 News' ongoing coverage of this case, click here.