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Saratoga Springs police chief defends officers as Hunt family plans funeral

(Michelle Tessier/Deseret News)


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SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andy Burton defended his officers Tuesday in light of a controversial shooting, saying they are all extremely well-trained.

"As far as training, our officers are top-notch. They are extremely well-trained. They average three times the number of hours required for recertification each year by the POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training). Much of their training has to do with these kinds of issues. So the officers are extremely well-trained," Burton said.

The chief's comments came as the investigation into a confrontation between two Saratoga Springs police officers and a 22-year-old black man carrying a sword entered its second week. Darrien Hunt was shot and killed by those officers during that confrontation.

Funeral plans for Darrien Hunt

Meanwhile, Hunt's family announced Tuesday that a viewing will be held Wednesday night at the Wing Mortuary in Lehi, with a funeral Thursday at 11 a.m. at the LDS Saratoga Springs North Stake Center, 2256 Providence Drive.

"On behalf of the Hunt family, they wish to extend their appreciation to the residents of Saratoga Springs and to the public for the outpouring of kindness and support. They would also ask, at this time, that the public and the media respect their privacy and allow them time to lay Darrien to rest, to grieve, and to deal with this profound tragedy," Jeanne Marshall, one of Hunt family's attorneys, said in a prepared statement.

In his obituary Tuesday, the family wrote, "He had a strong desire to serve his country in the Marine Corp and unfortunately never got that chance. Darrien had such a forgiving and kind heart and lived his life with a strong desire to just show love and compassion. He always wished there was a way to impact a positive change."

The family encouraged people to visit the Darrien Hunt Memorial Facebook page.

Chief defends Saratoga Springs police officer

The shooting has raised questions about whether racial profiling was involved — something both police and prosecutors have denied — and what transpired between the officers and Hunt that prompted them to open fire.

Burton says he has been asked by the the Utah County Officer Involved Shooting Protocol Team, which is headed up by the Utah County Attorney's Office, not to talk about the shooting until the investigation is completed.

Nobody shows up to Saratoga Springs protest

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A lot of questions remain unanswered after the controversial shooting death of Darrien Hunt — but an opportunity for people to voice their concerns didn't quite happen as planned.

A Facebook page appeared Tuesday morning, rallying against Saratoga Springs police, and organizers also set an event planned for noon on Tuesday to picket the police department.

In the end, no one showed up.

But Burton, speaking exclusively to KSL News on Wednesday, wants the public to know he has a good department.

"They're high-quality officers and they're good people. The officers involved in this thing are husbands and fathers, and they are very well-trained," he said.

Prior to Tuesday, the chief's comments had been restricted to a press release, which stated in part, "We ask the media and the public for patience and understanding of our position and lack of ability to answer all the questions posed at this time.

"Our inability to respond to this situation has caused much frustration, not only for the media and the public, but to the city and the police department," Burton stated.

On Sept. 10, two officers confronted Hunt near a credit union in the area of Crossroads Boulevard and Redwood Road. Hunt was carrying what has been described by police as a samurai sword and by the family as a 3-foot long souvenir katana sword with a rounded blade.

On Monday, Chief Deputy Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor said he had seen a picture of Hunt's sword, and described it as "a real sword with a steel blade on it" and a sharp point.

Taylor confirmed Tuesday that the sword was outside its sheath when Hunt allegedly lunged at officers. Hunt's family has questioned how he was shot while lunging at officers when an autopsy shows he was shot six times from behind. A photo by an eyewitness before the confrontation with police appeared to show Hunt either carrying or holding the sword on his back in a sheath.

Also on Tuesday, Taylor said the protocol team was conducting its first extensive interview with one of the officers involved in the shooting. The second officer was expected to sit down with the review board on Wednesday or Thursday to provide his version of what happened.

Investigators were also searching for surveillance video from nearby businesses that may have captured the confrontation between Hunt and police in the parking lot of a credit union, and the second and final confrontation about 200 yards away outside a Panda Express restaurant.

Taylor said it could be five to six weeks before the investigation is complete.

Mia Love comments on Hunt shooting

Former Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a brief statement Tuesday after days of requests for comment.

"My heart goes out to the families involved in this difficult situation. My term as mayor of Saratoga Springs ended over nine months ago, and it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on what happened without knowing all of the facts. The last thing we need right now are politicians inflaming this tragedy with speculation and commentary. I have confidence in the good people of this community and in our justice process."

Hunt's family has set up an account at America First Credit Union to accept donations to help pay for funeral costs.

Contributing: Nicole Vowell

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