Prosecutors in Utah have determined that two police officers were justified in the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt.
The Saratoga Springs police officers -- Cpl. Matt Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson – shot Hunt six times Sept. 10 after responding to two 911 calls about a man walking with a samurai-style sword along a commercial boulevard.
An autopsy revealed that Hunt, who was carrying a katana sword his family said was used for cosplay, had his back turned to the officers when all six shots were fired.
An attorney for Hunt’s family said they still don’t know how many shots were fired and in which direction, reported The Salt Lake Tribune, but he noted that Schauerhamer paused to reload his weapon during the shooting.
"There are some unmistakable facts that are not in dispute," said attorney Robert Sykes. "I reread the state’s autopsy this morning. Every one of the six shots came from behind."
But the Utah County Attorney said Monday that no charges would be filed against the two officers, who each shot Hunt three times after he swung the sword at them.
Hunt fled after Schauerhamer started shooting, and the officers continued shooting as they chased him toward a nearby business.
"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," said Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman.
Hunt’s family has described the cosplay sword as a toy, but Buhman said it had a sharp tip and blade and was not “intentionally dulled.”
Buhman said the first two shots likely wounded Hunt, who “continued to carry in his hand the unsheathed samurai-type sword.”
He said police feared Hunt would “hack the first person he saw” as he fled the officers.
"A peace officer … is justified in using deadly force when…the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person," Saratoga Springs police said in a statement.
Investigators aren’t sure why Hunt’s demeanor changed and became violent.
One witness said Hunt appeared to move his hands “like he was laughing” and spoke with one officer for up to 60 seconds before swinging the sword “very hard” at the second officer, who had just pulled up in a squad car.
The county attorney read from an affidavit by a second witness, who told investigators “the guy appeared to be laughing and smiling and then pulled out the sword and took a swipe at the interviewing officer and began to run."
But that witness told KUTV-TV last week that the affidavit misrepresented his statement to police and that he saw Hunt unsheathe the sword – but he did not swing it.
“I don't know what to make of it,” said Leonard "John" Zogg. “I was kind of surprised.”
Buhman said the police didn’t have enough time to attempt nonlethal force because the 37-second incident escalated so quickly and without provocation.
"The officers had to do with what was most immediately available to them -- that was their firearms," Buhman said.
Hunt’s family intends to file a civil lawsuit against the city and its police department.
Prosecutors are considering misdemeanor charges against Susan Hunt, his mother, following an Oct. 19 confrontation with police near the shooting site.
Her attorney said he knew few details about the case, but the Desert News reported that she may have slapped an officer who stopped another person.
Susan Hunt, who is white, has said she believes police killed her son because he was black.
Watch this video report posted online by KUTV-TV: