"How you can lunge at someone and be shot in the back at the same time”
Provo, Utah - On Tuesday, Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman, ruled that two Saratoga Springs police officers were justified in their use of deadly force when they shot 22-year-old Darrien Hunt in the back 6 times.
Hunt was shot on Sept. 10 outside a Top Stop convenience store in Saratoga Springs. Police had been called to the shopping plaza after someone saw a "suspicious person" walking around with a “samurai-type” sword. When they arrived, the two officers who responded claimed Hunt lunged at them with the sword, which prompted the gunfire.
We previously reported on the killing of Hunt back in September, and the extremely suspicious nature of being shot in the back while police claim a justification of being "attacked," as an autopsy report concluded.
Randall Edwards, an attorney for Hunt’s family, said it best when he stated,
“It raises the question as to how you can lunge at someone and be shot in the back at the same time.”
During a news conference, Buhman said that no charges would be filed claiming that the officers were justified in shooting Hunt after he swung his costume sword at them.
"I don’t find it reasonable to require that [the officers] permit a person who is armed and has most immediately attempted to wound or kill police officers to escape into a presently populated retail area," Buhman said.
But it seems that this justification would be based upon falsehoods being promoted by the police, as noted by Shaun King of the Daily Kos.
The first sign of trouble was that even a week after the shooting had taken place, the officers involved in the shooting had not given an interview to the police in regards to the events surrounding the shooting death.
Can you imagine having shot someone and not getting immediately arrested and questioned about it? Yet these officers were allowed ample time create a story that would exonerate them rather than being forced to go on record with the actual timeline of events as they recall immediately following the shooting, suspicious at best.
The earliest account of the shooting from a police perspective, from a recently released autopsy report claims:
The first officer exited his vehicle and the subject charged him swinging the sword. Three shots were fired (at Hunt) upon the initial contact.
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This is known to be untrue, as there was a photo taken by a witness named Jocelyn Hansen, which shows both officers standing and talking to Hunt after they had exited their police cruiser.
So how can Hunt be attacking them with a sword immediately after exiting the vehicle if there is photographic evidence that shows that to be a lie? The simple answer is he wasn’t, simply another fabrication to forward the police version of events in hopes of exonerating the officers.
Another extremely troubling aspect of the way the investigation was conducted, with police intentionally forwarding a false narrative. Police misrepresented, if not outright lied, about the statements of witness Leonard Zogg.
Zogg, is quoted on the day of the shooting to have said he saw Hunt lunge at officers and swing his sword. The problem with this lies in the fact that Zogg has publicly denied having ever said anything of the sort. In fact, he claims that he told detectives that police began shooting at Hunt after he was already running away.
Of course the police report claims the opposite, claiming that Zogg had said he started to run away after being shot at. The seemingly intentional misrepresentation of what Zogg said is extremely disconcerting and calls into question the validity of the investigation itself.
Another way the police spin machine attempted to smear Hunt and sway public sentiment against him was by claiming that he was a drug user, stating in their report:
"(Hunt) apparently liked hallucinogens and had taken acid approximately three weeks (prior to the shooting)."
The problem with this is that the toxicology report proved that Hunt had no drugs in his system. The statement made by police is just another attempt at justifying the killing of Hunt by painting him as a crazed drug user.
The manner in which this investigation was conducted, and the apparent attempts to spin this police involved killing, show an investigation askew in the earliest moments. This drive to justify the actions of officers, rather than to truly investigate the killing, shows a stunning lack of disregard for the law which ultimately culminated in the exoneration of the officers involved.
People need to take a stand against police whitewashing. The old, “We investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong,” routine seems to be in play in far too many cases. It is time people demand police accountability and investigation by outside forces. We demand justice for Darrien Hunt.
Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay's work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis and on Facebook at Sir Metropolis.