Utah officer says he shot Darrien Hunt to prevent him from harming others

Courts • The sword-carrying Utahn was shot and killed by officers on Sept. 10 “before he was able to hurt or kill someone,” report states.

The deadly encounter between Darrien Hunt and two Saratoga Springs police officers started innocently enough: the 22-year-old man wanted a ride to Orem.

Saratoga Springs police Cpl. Matt Schauerhamer said he would give him a ride but with one caveat: Hunt couldn't have the samurai-style sword strapped to his back with him inside the patrol car.

Things quickly escalated from that point, according to a newly unsealed search warrant affidavit filed in 4th District Court, which reveals many new details about the Sept. 10 fatal shooting of Hunt by Schauerhamer and Officer Nicholas Judson.

Schauerhamer told investigators that after Hunt swung the sword at him "he knew he had to stop Mr. Hunt before he was able to hurt or kill someone," the affidavit states.

Hunt allegedly became violent over the suggestion of giving up his sword.

"Corporal Schauerhamer asked Mr. Hunt to place the sword on the hood of the patrol car," Utah County attorney's office investigator Mark Dell'Ergo wrote in the affidavit, which was made public Wednesday. "Mr. Hunt refused, saying, 'I can't do that.' "

As Judson stood nearby, Schauerhamer asked Hunt why he couldn't put the sword down. Hunt allegedly replied, "It's my sword."

Dell'Ergo wrote that once Hunt was told he could not have the sword in the patrol car, he unsheathed the sword and "moved toward Corporal Schauerhamer, swinging it."

At that point, Schauerhamer drew his weapon and fired at Hunt, according to the affidavit — setting off a foot chase that would ultimately end in Hunt being hit six times by the two officers' bullets.

Two witnesses, cited in the affidavit, also said that Hunt swung the sword. The first was Melanie Wride, who told investigators that she saw Hunt move his hands "like he was laughing," and that his conversation with an officer lasted 30 to 60 seconds before he pulled a sword and swung it " 'very hard' at the officer who had just pulled up in the police car."

The other witness was Leonard Zogg, who saw Hunt unsheath the sword and swing it at an officer, according to the affidavit. However, Zogg told KUTV 2News on Wednesday that the affidavit misrepresents his statement, and that he only saw Hunt unsheath the sword, not swing it.

But Schauerhamer told investigators that he fired at Hunt as he ran away because he felt he needed to stop the sword-carrying man before he reached the parking lot of a Wal-Mart.

The affidavit also revealed more information about Hunt's state of mind and alleged drug use. The Utah County man's family allegedly told investigators that Hunt had been making and using dimethyltyptamine, a hallucinogen also know as DMT, in the weeks before the fatal shooting.

His mother, Susan Hunt, also told investigators about a phone call she had received the morning of the shooting, where her daughter's boyfriend told her that Darrien Hunt had posted a concerning Facebook message: "I have a sword and I'm going to get shot."

Hunt was shot six times by the two officers after they encountered Hunt after two 911 callers reported seeing a man walking with a samurai-style sword near Redwood Road and State Road 73, according to the affidavit.

After Hunt allegedly swung the sword and Schauerhamer fired his first rounds, Judson moved away to avoid Hunt, Dell'Ergo wrote, and fired once towards the man after he heard shots fired by Schauerhamer.

Hunt then ran east with the two officers chasing him. The affidavit states Schauerhamer reloaded his weapon as Hunt ran west behind a Top Stop.

"Mr. Hunt was still holding the sword sheath in his left hand and the sword in his right hand," the affidavit states. "Corporal Schauerhamer yelled, 'Stop!' as Mr. Hunt fled."

Hunt continued running, and when he reached the northeast corner of the Panda Express, Schauerhamer fired again. As Hunt rounded the corner of the Panda Express and began to head west toward Wal-Mart, Schauerhamer fired three more shots.

"Mr. Hunt dropped the sword sheath and fell to the ground," the affidavit states. "The sword came out of Mr. Hunt's right hand and slid along the ground several feet from where Mr. Hunt fell."

Hunt died at the scene.

Robert Sykes, the Hunt family attorney, said Wednesday that he felt the search warrant was improperly used by investigators. He said he felt they were trying to get the information to fend off a potential civil suit — not to find out what actually happened.

"I think it is improper to have used a search warrant in a proposed criminal case that could never be filed," he told The Tribune. "They are [trying] to get evidence of a crime that's never going to get filed."

Dell'Ergo wrote that investigators wanted access to Hunt's Facebook account and cell phone to investigate an alleged aggravated assault of a police officer — and to help law enforcement officers understand what was happening in Hunt's life before the shooting.

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said the information will help give them a better understanding, and a full picture, of what happened that day.

"We will do a comprehensive investigation," Buhman said Wednesday. "We want to know why. If we can know why."

Buhman has yet to rule whether the two officers were justified in using deadly force. He said he believes that decision could come as soon as Friday.

Utah Criminal Code states that an officer is justified in using deadly force if 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."

An officer is also justified in using deadly force if an arrested subject is fleeing and the officer believes the person has committed a felony offense involving death or serious bodily injury or that "the suspect posed a threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to others if apprehension is delayed."

"I'm looking at it more simply," Buhman said. "Did they have justification to shoot him? The fleeing is a factor."

The deadly encounter as described in the search warrant affidavit differs from the account given by a medical examiner investigator.

In the ME report, which Sykes released Tuesday, the investigator wrote that "the first officer exited his vehicle and the subject charged him swinging a sword." It makes no mention of any conversation Hunt and the officers had before the shooting.

Buhman said these inconsistencies are because the medical examiner investigator had very little information immediately available to him, while the search warrant affidavit was filed a month later as the investigation continued.

"The investigation has progressed significantly," Buhman said. "These are large investigations. When they are at the ME's office, they have very little information at that point, so they are using what is available at that time."

The affidavit also included statements from several witnesses who saw the shooting unfold.

One woman said that from her vehicle, she saw Hunt swing the sword "very hard" at the officer before the two officers pulled their weapons and began firing. Another man gave a similar account.

The sword — which family members have described as a toy "katana" sword — belonged to Hunt's brother, according to the affidavit.

The autopsy report from the state Office of the Medical Examiner concluded that Hunt died from multiple gunshots fired from behind.

Sykes said Tuesday that the family believes the officers used excessive force on that day.

"You can't use deadly force on a fleeing suspect unless there is an immediate risk of harm — serious bodily harm or death to police or others nearby," Sykes said at a Tuesday news conference. "He's running from the police. They can't have been in any legitimate fear that he was going to harm them. They chased him and had an old-fashioned shootout on an innocent boy who had probably done nothing."

On Wednesday, Sykes said the information in the search warrant affidavit did not change his view.

"They didn't need to use deadly force on him," he said. "They shot him down like a dog in the street. That's just awful."

The findings of Utah medical examiner Pamela Ulmer were similar to a private autopsy done for the family that was released earlier this month, according to Sykes.

The medical examiner concluded that Hunt's cause of death was "multiple gunshots" — with the direction of fire being "posterior to anterior," or from back to front.

Ulmer identified six gunshots in all, one penetrating Hunt's right back and lodging in his lung, while other bullets struck him in the right upper arm, right forearm, left upper arm, left elbow and left hip.

Ulmer also found no traces of illegal drugs in Hunt's blood.


Twitter: @jm_miller