A young black man who was shot to death by Utah police was armed with a samurai sword and lunged at officers before they opened fire, prosecutors said Monday.
But family members of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt believe he was shot in the back while running away from the officers and that the shooting was racially motivated.
The incident, which occurred Wednesday morning, has shaken the small Utah County community of Saratoga Springs and is already drawing comparisons with the shooting death of Michael Brown who was shot by Ferguson, Missouri, police last month.
“I'm in Saratoga Springs, cause it's a safe little community and they killed him. They killed my son because he's black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he's running away,” Hunt’s mother, Susan Hunt, told KSL.
Utah County Deputy Attorney Tim Taylor said in a statement that Darrien Hunt threatened the officers with the sword.
“Police officers from the Saratoga Springs Police Department responded to a report of a suspicious individual walking around a local business with a 'samurai-type' sword,” Taylor’s statement read. “When the officers made contact with Mr. Hunt, preliminary evidence suggests that Mr. Hunt brandished the sword and lunged toward the officers with the sword, at which time Mr. Hunt was shot.”
Hunt family attorney Randall Edwards told CNN that an independent autopsy shows Hunt was shot six times from behind.
"We are not going to release the independent autopsy results or the name of who performed it until the Utah State Medical Examiner releases its results," Edwards said.
He added that witnesses said they saw Hunt running when he was shot. For that reason Edwards said he finds it hard to believe that Hunt ever lunged at the officers.
“We don't know exactly what happened, but the fact that a black kid with an Afro was shot while walking down the street by two white officers in a city that is 96 percent white is concerning,” Edwards said. “There are serious questions as to why officers were questioning him and the use of force in this situation.”
A group of investigators from different law enforcement agencies are reviewing the shooting under the direction of the prosecutor’s office. The officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave per department protocol.