SARATOGA SPRINGS — The two Saratoga Springs police officers who shot and killed Darrien Hunt as he fled from them with an unsheathed sword feared he would harm others, according to a newly released search warrant affidavit.
In addition, the report alludes to a possible Facebook post allegedly made by Hunt on the day he was killed that stated, "I have a sword and I'm going to get shot."
The affidavit for a search warrant was filed by investigators from the Utah County Attorney's Office seeking to go through Hunt's cellphone and social media pages. It was written Oct. 9, a month after the shooting.
But Hunt family attorney Robert Sykes argued Wednesday that the use of a search warrant in the investigation of whether deadly force was justified is inappropriate.
"I think they're trying to get evidence in advance of a civil case. They're using the criminal law improperly to gain evidence in a civil case," Sykes said. "This says they're investigating the crime of aggravated assault by Darrien. He's dead. What is there to investigate?"
Deputy Utah County attorney Tim Taylor disagrees. He said his office can still legally investigate a potential criminal matter.
"An individual swinging a sword at police officers is still a crime, whether the individual is killed or not," he said.
But in search warrants yet to be publicly released because of a rule implemented a couple of years ago that requires the courts to wait 20 days before releasing them, Taylor noted the affidavit states that investigators are also looking at whether there was any potential criminal conduct on the part of the two officers, including the crimes of murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide, which is standard in an officer-involved shooting.
The affidavit released Wednesday gives a first detailed look at what Saratoga Springs Cpl. Matt Schauerhamer and officer Nicholas Judson encountered when they confronted Hunt on Sept. 10 in the area of Crossroads Boulevard and Redwood Road. Like the narrative from the state autopsy released Tuesday, the search warrant paints a picture of a seemingly benign encounter that turned violent without warning.
In the parking lot area between a Top Stop gas station and a credit union, Schauerhamer approached Hunt from the front and Judson approached him from behind, the affidavit states. Schauerhamer asked Hunt to put his sword on the hood of his patrol car.
"Mr. Hunt refused, saying, 'I can't do that,'" investigators wrote in the affidavit.
When asked why, Hunt replied, "It's my sword."
Hunt told the officers he was looking for a ride to Orem. The officers said they'd be willing to give him a ride, but he wouldn't be allowed to be in possession of his sword as they drove.
After Schauerhamer told Hunt he could not have the sword with him while riding in the back of his police car, "Hunt pulled out the sword and moved toward Corporal Schauerhamer swinging it," the affidavit states.
Two eyewitnesses who were at the Top Stop corroborated the officers' account of the incident. One woman said she observed Hunt "moving his hands like he was laughing," Sgt. Mark Dell'Ergo of the county attorney's bureau of investigations wrote in the warrant.
That account seems to fall in line with a picture taken by another eyewitness on the day of the shooting. In it, Hunt is standing with an officer on either side of him. The officers are outside their vehicles and appear to be talking to Hunt. Neither has their weapon drawn. Hunt appears to have a smile on his face.
The woman at the Top Stop said the conversation lasted only 30 to 60 seconds before Hunt pulled out the sword and swung it "very hard" at the stomach of one of the officers, according to the affidavit.
Schauerhamer drew his weapon and fired. Judson tried to create distance between him and Hunt and also fired one shot, the warrant states. Hunt took off running with the officers chasing after him, yelling, "Stop."
"Schauerhamer said he knew he had to stop Mr. Hunt before he was able to hurt or kill someone," Dell'Ergo wrote.
Hunt allegedly ran with the sheath in his left hand and the sword in his right.
As Hunt circled the nearby Panda Express and started running toward Wal-Mart, "Schauerhamer said he knew he needed to stop Mr. Hunt before Mr. Hunt could make it to the parking lot of Wal-Mart," according to the affidavit.
Schauerhamer then fired three more shots on the north end of the Panda Express and Hunt fell to the ground.
The autopsy from the state medical examiner's office showed Hunt was shot five times from behind and once from the side. One shot hit him directly in his back while the others hit his hips, wrist and upper arms.
But Sykes contends that Hunt only took his sword out because that's what the officer asked him to do. And even if Hunt had swung his sword at the officers as Dell'Ergo claims in the affidavit, Sykes believes the use of deadly force was not warranted once Hunt ran away from the officers.
"I think it's total nonsense that Cpl. Schauerhamer said he needed to stop Mr. Hunt before Mr. Hunt made it to the parking lot of the Wal-Mart. I think that's total, utter nonsense. He didn't need to do that. This was a cowboy cop that was going to shoot him down," he said. "That's not the law. There's no indication there were people nearby, that they couldn't have stopped him."
As investigators began interviewing people, they learned that the boyfriend of one of Hunt's sisters had told Susan Hunt, Darrien Hunt's mother, that Darrien had "posted a Facebook message that said, 'I have a sword and I'm going to get shot.'"
Taylor said Wednesday his office had not confirmed whether that message was actually posted. His office was still waiting for representatives from Facebook to send them the paperwork they requested, he said.
The Deseret News looked at Hunt's Facebook page a few hours after the shooting and did not find that message. His last posts on his Facebook wall were short, and seemed to indicate he was upset or distressed about something. He also seemed to be having relationship issues.
One post just a couple of days before his death stated, "I am here for one person. I can manage my ego thanks for all the hurt (expletive)." Another stated, "I'm fine with being alone. Not gonna let my girl die though." The last post on Hunt's Facebook wall was made about 12 hours before he was shot. "I wanted to share my everything with her."
Dell'Ergo wrote in the affidavit that Hunt was reportedly "obsessed" with an Orem girl he had met on Facebook in June. The girl, according to a family member, thought Hunt was "crazy." Hunt allegedly posted "random and weird things about the girl" on Facebook, Hunt's brother told investigators. The girl's family eventually told Hunt to stop calling and texting her or they would call police.
There have been many questions about Hunt's sword since the shooting. Hunt's family has called it a souvenir katana. The Utah County Attorney's Office has said it looked real.
The report released Wednesday said it was a 40-inch sword with a 28-inch blade. Hunt's brother told investigators that although the blade was dull, "it could really hurt someone if you swung it," the affidavit states.
The search warrant also details alleged drug use by Hunt. Family members said Hunt was using marijuana and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a "powerful hallucinogen," according to the affidavit. DMT made Hunt "feel like he was dreaming while he was awake." Hunt had also used acid within four weeks prior to the shooting, according to his brother.
Susan Hunt told investigators that her son took DMT "to cope with his issues." She said he once woke her up in the middle of the night while on DMT and "told her he was God," the affidavit states.
Yet the official autopsy determined that there were no drugs in Hunt's system at the time of his death.
Hunt was recently fired from his job in American Fork for failing to show up for work, the affidavit states. Susan Hunt had told her son he needed to get a job by the end of the week or move out of the house. She said in previous interviews that she believes her son may have been in the area of those Saratoga Springs businesses that morning looking for a job.
Sykes said Hunt's drug history, girlfriend history, Facebook posts and cellphone records are not relevant to the shooting investigation and believes the addition of that information in the search warrant affidavit amounts to nothing more than "character assassination."
In January, Hunt took a plea in abeyance to a misdemeanor charge of assault, according to state court records. During "an intoxicated domestic altercation," the affidavit says Hunt told his family, "I want everyone dead, and I'm going to kill you." Susan Hunt told the Deseret News the incident was blown out of proportion and he should have never been charged. She said her son was drunk and venting with her about past issues and that she never felt threatened.
The Utah County Attorney's Office said Wednesday that it anticipates holding a press conference either Friday or Monday to announce the findings of its investigation.
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