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Mom: Darrien Hunt was shot 'because he was black'

"They killed my son because he's black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he's running away," Susan Hunt, Darrien's mother.

By Gabrielle Levy

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The mother of a Utah man killed in a police shooting last week says her son was the victim of racial prejudice.

Darrien Hunt, 22, was shot by Saratoga Springs police Wednesday morning. The exact circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear; most accounts agree that Hunt, who was black, had some kind of three-foot sword strapped to his back.

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Some witnesses have described Hunt's behavior as "distressed," while others have said he was "totally calm."

Prosecutors say Hunt lunged at police with a "samurai-type sword," prompting the fatal shooting. But the family says an independent autopsy tells a different story: that he was shot in the back while running away.

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"They killed my son because he's black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he's running away," Susan Hunt, the dead man's mother, said Friday. "Those stupid cops thought they had to murder over a toy. This is my baby. This is my family. And they ruined my family."

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She said she believed her son had been trying to make a good impression to get a job at a local Panda Express, and the sword was purchased at a gift shop and not actually capable of cutting anything.

Police have not released information why the confrontation between the two officers and Hunt left a man dead, but denied race played a role.

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"We sympathize with Mr. Hunt's family during this difficult time. Any claim that our officers' actions were a result of Mr. Hunt's race are completely unfounded and speculative," a spokesman for the police department said. "Our officers responded to a call for service and addressed the situation that was presented to them. The Utah County Attorney's Office continues to investigate the incident."

The attorney's office said there is "currently no indication that race played any role in the confrontation between Mr. Hunt and the police officer."

"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," said Chief Deputy Tim Taylor of the prosecutor's office.

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"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," Taylor said.

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Hunt was reportedly walking in an area with several businesses, and a photo taken by a witness and sent to Susan Hunt shows the officers and Darrien Hunt outside a bank. An attorney for the family says witness statements corroborate the family's belief Hunt was running away from officers when he was shot.

"An independent autopsy done at the behest of Darrien Hunt's family reveals that he was shot numerous times, all from the rear," said attorney Randall Edwards.

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"This is consistent with statements made by witnesses on the scene, who report that Darrien was shot to death while running away from the police," he said. "It would appear difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile these facts with a story that Darrien was lunging toward the officers when he was shot."

The county attorney's office says the incident is under investigation and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

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