Last month, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was shot and killed by officers in Saratoga Springs, Utah, while carrying a toy sword. Police claimed Hunt lunged at them, but a new state autopsy released by Hunt’s lawyer finds that Hunt was shot 5 times in the back, and a sixth time on his left hip towards the back.
The autopsy by the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Officer corroborates an earlier private autopsy commissioned by Hunt’s lawyer Robert Sykes that also found he was shot in the back, although Sykes would not initially release a copy of that autopsy. A toxicology report was also released showing that Hunt had no drugs in his body, although officers noted in their original report that Hunt “apparently liked hallucinogens and had taken acid approximately three weeks” before the shooting, according to the Deseret News.
At the time of his death, Hunt was wearing an outfit that bore a striking resemblance the Japanese anime character Mugen, from the series Samurai Champloo. The weekend prior to his death, Salt Lake City hosted the annual Comic Con event at which attendees dress up as comic book characters in a practice known as “cosplaying.”
In the weeks after his death, his family found drawings of a number of Japanese anime characters, including several carrying swords. Friends at his funeral called Hunt artistic, shy, and gentle.
“It shows a familiarity, if not a fascination, with that kind of fantasy world,” Hunt’s lawyer Randall Edwards told the Guardian. “It gives some context – and potentially some explanation – to why you have this kid walking down the street with a samurai-style sword on his back.”
Officers say they received a call reporting a “suspicious” person and believed Hunt was carrying a real sword. His mother said it was a souvenir blunt-edged Japanese sword known as a “katana” from a gift shop. Utah has an open carry law, meaning that residents are permitted to openly carry guns even if they don’t have a permit. Police are therefore likely to encounter other individuals walking down the street with guns, and it’s unclear at what point they would be considered “suspicious.”
Hunt died about 100 feet away from the site of the police car, and police have conceded that Hunt traveled away from the officers during the incident, suggesting he was indeed running away.
Saratoga Springs is 93 percent white and 0.5 percent black, and Hunt’s mother, who is also white, believes Hunt was killed because of his race.
“Those stupid cops thought they had to murder over a toy,” Susan Hunt told the Associated Press. Hunt said she returned to Utah recently after separating from her husband and fleeing an abusive relationship, to start a new life with her children. She said Darrien was coping with the separation and looking for jobs in Saratoga Springs.