There is a highly disturbing controversy outside of Salt Lake City where Darrien Hunt, 22, was shot six times by police officers who claimed that he charged them with a sword. Hunt was dressed in a Japanese anime costume with a 2 ½ foot steel sword that the family insists was nothing more than a prop. An autopsy released this week shows that several of the shots entered in the back of his body. The case has raised racial concerns since Hunt was black and the officers were white.
The shooting occurred on September 10th after someone called about a man swinging a sword. Hunt was wearing a red shirt and blue pants similar to an anime character. The officer said that he fired three shots when Hunt charged at him as the officer got out of his car. When Hunt ran away, the police fired four more times.
No drugs were found in his system and a picture taken by a bystander shows Hunt smiling and talking to the two officers. The prosecutors have acknowledged that Hunt talked to officers after they arrived and asked them for a ride. If that is true, they clearly would have gotten a close view of the sword.
The officers have been identified as Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson from Saratoga Springs just south of Salt Lake City.
What is striking is that days after the shooting, the officers still had not been interviewed according to some coverage and that account of the police department changed. The delay in the interviews raised a past controversy over police moving to protect officers from having to give statements immediately after shootings. We discussed the outrageous policy of Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements.
The police officers say that they asked Hunt to put the sword on the hood of the patrol car and that he refused — saying “it is my sword.” They say that he then began to swing the sword at them when they decided to use lethal force to protect themselves and others. Below is the picture of sword which seems quite real.
What I am most interested in is the witness testimony. If someone took the above picture, clearly there must be eye witness accounts as to whether Hunt was swinging the sword at the officers. If so, it could be found a justifiable use of force under controlling standards. Once again, total transparency is needed in such a case to assure the public that an independent and thorough investigation is being conducted.
Source: USA Today