“Saratoga Springs is not Ferguson.” That from Randall K. Edwards, lawyer to the family of Darrien Hunt, a 22-year old black man killed by white police officers last week in the town south of Salt Lake City. Hunt’s mother told media on Monday that her son was killed “because he was black,” a claim which fans embers of protest surrounding the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The two cases bear stark contrasts, despite their thematic similarity. As Edwards points out, the population of Saratoga Springs differs from Ferguson in its racial composition. That may contribute to the relative lack of protest surrounding Hunt’s death. Another contrast, the Hunt family’s claim holds more weight in light of developing evidence. The New York Times reports:
According to [Edwards], the family paid for an autopsy that found that Mr. Hunt had suffered six bullet wounds — two to a leg, and one in a hand, an elbow, a shoulder and mid-chest. All of the bullets entered Mr. Hunt’s body from the back, Mr. Edwards said. “It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile that with the reports that he was lunging at them,” he added.
Official autopsy findings from the Utah state medical examiner will not be available for several weeks. If it comports with these independent findings, the Utah County Attorney will have some explaining to do. The office’s current position is that Hunt wielded at 2.5 foot steel bladed samurai sword and lunged at the officers who shot him. But as Edwards points out, “…it seems unlikely that you brandish a sword, you jump toward the officers, lunging toward them and end up shot in the back.”
The Hunt family claims the sword Darrien carried was a plastic toy. That’s a pretty dramatic deviation from the police claim. And even if Hunt carried a real sword, eyewitness accounts and a photograph taken by a bystander (shown above) indicate a relaxed interview. What led to the shooting, we just don’t know.
Fortunately, despite the family’s statements, no violent protest has broken out in Saratoga Springs to rival that seen in Ferguson. The community, while vocal and understandably impatient, seems content to let the system work.
(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 10:53 minutes long; 10.51 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)