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SARATOGA SPRINGS — The mother of a Saratoga Springs man shot and killed by police this week believes the situation would have had a completely different outcome if her son were white.
"I'm in Saratoga Springs, cause it's a safe little community and they killed him. They killed my son because he's black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he's running away," an emotional Susan Hunt said while crying 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."
Darrien Nathaniel Hunt, 22, of Saratoga Springs, was shot and killed by police Wednesday morning. Hunt was carrying what has been described by police as a Samurai sword.
But police have released absolutely no information about what prompted two Saratoga Springs police officers to shoot the man and very little information about the crime scene.
A spokesman for the city released a brief prepared statement Friday afternoon to respond to the allegations of racial profiling:
"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. 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."
There have been differing witness accounts about Hunt's demeanor prior to the shooting. While all agree he stood out with his 3-foot sword strapped to his back, some have described him as "distressed" while others said he was "totally calm."
Hunt had reportedly been walking in the area of Crossroads Boulevard and Redwood Road around a group of businesses, including a Panda Express restaurant on Redwood Road, a gas station, an auto parts store and a credit union.
A witness later sent Susan Hunt a photo of police confronting her son outside the bank just prior to shots being fired. In the picture, two officers are standing on either side of Darrien. The sword is not visible in the picture. The family believes, based on the limited information they've been given, that at some point during that confrontation, a shot was fired by police. Susan Hunt doesn't know if that shot hit her son or not. But she believes he then ran toward the Panda Express, where she believes multiple shots were fired and he was struck and killed.
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. 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.
–Saratoga Springs official statement
Now, the family wants answers from police about what transpired.
"I've been begging the police, why from the time I saw the pictures of you just standing by him with his hands to his side, does he end up seconds later with a bullet in him? And then if he's running (according to eyewitnesses), why you had to put in more bullets, and I don't even know how many? That's what I want to know. Would they have done that to any white boy?" Susan Hunt said.
Hunt described her son as a boy in a man's body who loved everybody and was deeply concerned about travesties in other parts of the world, particularly Africa.
"He wanted to make a difference," she said. "His potential was amazing."
But his mother also said she and her family fled from an abusive relationship three years ago and her son was still trying to process many emotions inside his head.
"My son is a tender heart who would not hurt anybody. Just wanted to be loved. And he was so confused. He was abused his whole life," she said. "My son is a beautiful, bright-eyed, intelligent boy."
Darrien Hunt was born in Salt Lake City. His father is black and his mother is white. The family later moved to Kentucky and Virginia before Susan Hunt returned to Utah after becoming estranged from her husband to start a new life for family.
Once in Utah, Hunt said her son "tried to make up for all the years he lost." He spent a lot of time on the Internet reading about world issues, she said. He also loved to draw and his mother had hopes of him becoming a graphic designer.
Darrien Hunt was also into fitness and recently completed a Ragnar race. His mother said he constantly listened to rapper Tech N9ne and at one point had his own aspirations of becoming a rap artist.
"He thought that he could spit some pretty good lyrics," she laughed.
Hunt said her son did not have a diminished mental capacity, and though he struggled with sadness, he was not suicidal. She said he was really just a man trying to recapture some of the youth he lost from suffering years of abuse. He also spent a lot of time dwelling on social issues, which sometimes emotionally overwhelmed him.
"He was just totally overwhelmed by what the world was allowing to happen on a daily basis. And he couldn't figure out why if there was a God, why he wasn't helping all these poor people," she said. "He didn't really know exactly what he wanted to do, but wanted to help the environment. He was just a silly kid. But he put a lot of his time and effort into how he could make things better.
"In his mind, he was struggling to figure out why there was so much sadness," she said.
In January, Hunt took a plea in abeyance to a misdemeanor charge of assault, according to state court records. But his mother said it was an incident that he should have never been charged with. Her son was drunk and venting with her about past issues when she says he lightly pushed her. She insists she was not hurt, but he punched other teenagers in the home who were trying to control him, a police affidavit states.
On the morning of the shooting, Susan Hunt said she saw her son putting on a nice shirt. She had recently talked to him about "getting on his feet" and getting a job. She last saw him about 7:45 a.m. in the house.
"I might have said, 'I love you.' I might have said, 'Are you looking for a job today?' I don't even remember. I just remember thinking he looked really nice when he was walking in his brother's room," she recalled.
Darrien Hunt walked to wherever he needed to be. His mother believes he was likely listening to Tech N9ne in his ear buds when he headed out toward the businesses at the bottom of the hill from their house. Why he took a sword along with him was unknown.
"I believe that maybe my son thought, 'Maybe I'll try to get a job at Panda, maybe this sword will impress them,'" she said. "(He probably) thought he was cool with the sword. He was more of a little kid trying to be a teenager."
Despite his emotional struggles, Susan Hunt does not believe her son would do anything irrational, especially if confronted by police. She described the sword as a Katana that was purchased at an Asian gift shop locally. Hunt said it was a souvenir sword that could not cut anything.
After her son was shot, Hunt said she was not allowed to get close to his body even to identify him. She said she had to tell police that she thought her son was lying dead in front of the restaurant because she heard about it on Facebook.
In front of the Panda Express Friday, there was a growing makeshift memorial with balloons, flowers and pictures of Darrien where he died. The family has set up a fund to help pay for funeral expenses. Donations can be made at any America First Credit Union under Darrien Hunt's name.
Contributing: Nkoyo Iyamba