SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A black man who was shot by Utah police while armed with a samurai-style sword as part of a Japanese anime costume died of multiple gunshot wounds, including several in the back of his body, according to an autopsy released Tuesday.
The state autopsy documents six gunshot wounds on the body of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt and finds at least four of the shots entered his body from behind.
That generally confirms the results of an independent autopsy released by his family, who said Hunt was treated differently because he was black.
“I don’t think anyone would have thought twice if it wasn’t someone with an afro,” said his mother, Susan Hunt, on Tuesday. Police say race wasn’t a factor.
Hunt was shot Sept. 10 as he walked around a strip mall in the Utah city of Saratoga Springs wearing a red shirt and blue pants similar to an anime character and a 2 ½ foot steel sword. Police said they were responding to a 911 call about a man with a sword when he lunged at them, swinging the weapon.
But his family says the sword was decorative rather than dangerous.
A narrative in the autopsy states an officer fired three shots when Darrien Hunt charged at him, swinging the sword, as the officer got out of his car. Darrien Hunt ran away and police fired four more times as they chased him, the report says. The autopsy found no drugs in his system.
An attorney for the Hunt family, Robert Sykes, disputed the officers’ account, saying a picture taken by a bystander shows Hunt smiling as he talked to two officers.
Tim Taylor, chief deputy at the Utah County Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday that Hunt talked to officers after they arrived, asking them for a ride.
The county attorney’s investigation into whether the shooting was legally justified could be complete within a week, Taylor said. He said the trajectory of the shots found by the autopsy indicates Hunt was turning away when they were fired, but investigators are still looking at exactly what happened during the encounter.
The autopsy shows four of the gunshots found in Hunt’s body traveled back to front. A fifth shot that struck his left arm appears to have come from the front and a sixth traveled downward after entering the back of his forearm.
“I think that means they were pursuing him, he was running away. He was probably sacred to death,” said Sykes.
Susan Hunt said she hopes the officers involved are held accountable, and barred from using firearms in the future.
The officers, who are white, have been identified as Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson.
Saratoga Springs is an upscale city of 23,000 people south of Salt Lake City. About 93 percent of residents are white and fewer than 1 percent are black, according to U.S. Census figures.
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