Susan and Curtis Hunt sued the City of Saratoga Springs and its police Officers Matthew Schauerhamer and Nicholas Judson for the death of their 22-year-old son Darrien, in Federal Court.
Darrien had attended the Salt Lake Comic Con just days before the shooting, his parents say, during which thousands of costume play, or “cosplay,” enthusiasts “openly carried various types of swords on the streets of the State’s Capitol.”
Utah is an open-carry state and Darrien was legally entitled to carry the sword, his parents say in the Jan. 2 lawsuit.
Darrien was shot to death on Sept. 10. He was wearing a red martial-arts style wrap shirt with his hair in a samurai-style bun, similar to a swordsman character in a Japanese anime series.
He openly carried a 40-inch decorative katana sword, his parents say – the type of sword traditionally associated with samurai swordsmen.
“The sword had a dull metal edge and was stowed in a sheath on Darrien’s back, with the strap over Darrien’s left shoulder,” the 44-page complaint states.
The officers responded to a 911 call about a man walking with a samurai-style sword and stopped Hunt in a “confrontational manner” in a credit union parking lot, his parents say.
Witnesses said the officers demanded that Hunt surrender the sword, to which he replied, “No, it’s my sword,” while “smiling and joking” with the officers, according to the complaint.
After the shooting, Schauerhamer told an investigator that Hunt had “whipped” out the sword and jumped at Officer Judson, leading Schauerhamer to draw his gun “as fast as [he] could” and fire “two or three rounds,” the complaint states.
During the ensuing chase, Hunt was shot six times in the back, arms and hip, his parents claim.
“Even if Darrien had swung the sword in the direction of an officer, it was a single motion that did not strike either officer, and was followed by Darrien immediately turning and running away,” the complaint states.
The officers, both white, claim their lapel and dash cameras were not turned on during the shooting, according to the lawsuit.
In a post-incident interview, the parents say, Schauerhamer, who allegedly had a bean bag gun in his car, said “he did not know whether Hunt was ‘crazy’ or just trying to make a point about open carry with a sword.”
Schauerhamer added that he could not let Hunt “run around with a frickin’ sword,” according to the complaint.
“In the final moments of Darrien’s life, he was compelled to flee in great terror from Schauerhamer and Judson,” the complaint states. “He undoubtedly knew that the officers were trying to kill him, which caused him to experience fear and terror in the last, final moments of his young life.”
Saratoga Springs, south of Salt Lake City, is part of the Provo-Orem metro area. Racial makeup of the city was 94 percent white in 2000, according to census data.
The Hunts seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, wrongful death and emotional distress.
They are represented by Robert Sykes with Sykes McCallister.
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