SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah officer was wearing a body camera during the fatal police shooting of sword-wielding man in September, but the camera was not switched on, Utah authorities said Friday.
The department was experimenting with the cameras, but they were inexpensive, problematic models not designed for police work, Saratoga Springs police Chief Andrew Burton said.
Rachel Sykes, an attorney for the family of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, said it's concerning that law enforcement officials did not disclose the cameras when they ruled earlier this month that the shooting was justified. "We certainly think it's outrageous that the police department did not release this information until now," she said.
The detail was revealed in a police report obtained Thursday by attorneys for the Hunt family. Burton said his department was barred from releasing the information until the county attorney completed its investigation into the shooting last week.
Officer Nicholas Judson had been on the job for six weeks and didn't turn on the camera, Burton said. "A more seasoned officer may have thought about his body camera, but Officer Judson being a brand-new officer, was totally focused on the situation," he said.
Officers had been testing the $85 cameras for several months, but they had unreliable batteries and recording troubles, Burton said.
The department doesn't have a policy on when cameras must be activated. Judson and Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer, the other officer involved in the shooting, are returning to active duty after the shooting was ruled legally justified.
Hunt was carrying a samurai sword as part of a Japanese anime costume when police encountered him at a shopping center in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 10.
Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said Hunt refused to give up the 3-foot metal sword as officers requested and instead swung it toward them. The officers shot at Hunt, who fled despite being hit by gunfire. Buhman said the officers feared Hunt was seconds away from hurting someone and they shot at him again. He died at the scene.
Hunt's family contends the shooting was not justified, arguing that Hunt was treated differently because of his race. Hunt was black, and the two officers involved were white.
Earlier this week, the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP announced a formal request that the U.S. Department of Justice review the shooting. Hunt's family is also preparing a wrongful-death and civil-rights lawsuit, which Sykes expects will be filed within a week.
The family is calling for the release of all evidence related to the shooting, Sykes said.
Jackson said the department has since received high-quality $535 cameras designed for police work that were paid for by a state grant. The police department is in the process of issuing them to officers, he said.