Police shot and killed a man Wednesday morning who was carrying a samurai sword, but they’re not offering many details about what happened.
Witnesses reported the man, identified Thursday as 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, walking around with the martial arts weapon outside a convenience store in Saratoga Springs, Utah.
A 911 caller described Hunt as a “suspicious person” who was waving the sword around about 9:40 a.m. in the parking lot of Top Stop Convenience Store.
“He wasn’t talking to anybody at that point,” said Paul Cook, who saw the armed man walking between businesses along a commercial boulevard. “We all kind of thought it was a weird situation. I’m glad that the officers took action because, from what I’ve heard, it could have been a lot worse.”
Natalie Christensen said she saw Hunt walking “totally cool” along the street wearing ear buds and a 3- to 4-foot sheathed sword strapped to his back, and she took a picture of him with her phone.
“He was just walking nonchalantly — totally calm, really slow,” Christensen said. “He was totally calm, minding his own business. He smiled at me — like he turned and smiled at me like he had no care in the world.”
A woman who stopped at the gas station to buy a drink said she was frightened by Hunt, but she said he appeared to be scared himself.
“He looked pretty terrified,” said witness Maya Herrera. “He was looking back over his shoulders and walking really fast. It was a really long sword. It went from his shoulder to his hip.”
Police said Hunt was carrying the sword when two officers approached him outside a Chinese restaurant, but a department spokesman declined to say whether he swung the sword or otherwise threatened the officers.
They also declined to say how many shots were fired at Hunt, who died from at least one gunshot wound.
Neither officer was injured, and both of them have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Hunt’s aunt said the sword did not pose a threat to the officers.
“There’s no blade on it — it’s just a rounded edge,” said Cindy Moss. “It’d be like hitting someone with a stick, and they murdered him over it.”
Witnesses said Hunt and the two officers spoke calmly at first outside Panda Express.
“They had stopped him, and they were all having a conversation,” said Jocelyn Hansen, who was parked at the gas station next door. “It didn’t look escalated or heated at all.”
Hansen said she watched police question Hunt but turned away just before gunfire erupted.
“When I looked up, I saw the young man turning away from the police, and I saw what I thought were two 2×4’s in his hands, one in each hand,” Hansen said. “Then I saw police officers running after him, and they could have both had guns, but I saw one for sure with his gun extended.”
Police have not said why officers fired their weapons, but Hunt’s family and friends say the shooting could not have been justified.
“This could happen to anyone, honestly, it could be your kid, it could be your kid tomorrow,” said family friend Nick Waitkevien. “These police they are not thinking civilly. They are not here to protect us.”
Hunt was booked Jan. 5 on suspicion of numerous counts of assault, domestic violence and child abuse in connection with an incident at his mother’s home involving siblings and other children at the house.
Police said in that case that a drunken Hunt got into an argument with his sister and then shoved his mother as she attempted to separate them and then tried to hit his sister.
Two teenage boys held Hunt down, and he choked and punched them during the struggle before they subdued him.
He entered a guilty plea five days later to misdemeanor assault “in abeyance,” which meant the case would not count as a conviction if he did not offend again.
Hunt was ordered to undergo substance abuse, mental health, and domestic violence-related assessments by Jan. 10, 2015, as a condition of the plea agreement.
He was fined $1,012 and had the other charges dismissed, authorities said.
Hunt posted numerous brief, cryptic messages in recent weeks on his Facebook page that indicated he was possibly upset over a girlfriend
“I’m fine with being alone,” he posted Sunday. “Not gonna let my girl die though.”
An Aug. 16 post indicated he was involved in an incident with police, who he said “were there to be difficult,” and indicated he was “annoyed” by recent events in his life.
“You deserve everything,” he posted Monday. “I wanted to share my everything with her.”
Watch this video report posted online by KSL-TV: