The Homicide of Darrien Hunt: An Update

Last week, we brought you Black Girl Nerds’ account of the shooting of Darrien Hunt, the 22-year old Utah man who was killed by police for “brandishing a sword” that happened to not be a real sword at all. Depressingly, Hunt’s murder is part of an all too common pattern of high-profile killings of unarmed black men by those who have been sworn to protect and serve them.

The death of Darrien Hunt did not happen in a vaccum. In the wake of similar instances in Staten Island with Eric Garner, or Ferguson with Michael Brown, and Ohio with John Crawford1 — and these cases are just from this summer — the mainstream media and society in general is paying attention more than they ever have in the past.

On Friday, the Utah County Attorney’s Office released this photo of Darrien Hunt’s sword.

Hunt’s death, though, has particularly resonated in nerd of color communities in a way that the previous injustices have not. Partly, it may be due to the fact that early reports seemed to suggest that Hunt may have been cosplaying at the time he was killed.

While the facts surrounding whether he was actually cosplaying have been a subject of debate, his death has definitely gripped the attention of the nerd community. Even if Hunt wasn’t a cosplayer, images from his sketchbook released by his family today suggest that — like most young men his age —  he had an affinity for anime and manga culture.

Again, we don’t really know if Hunt was a nerd of color or a cosplayer or just a guy trying to get lunch (or a job) at Panda Express. And honestly, it doesn’t matter. The nerd of color community has every right to be outraged about this senseless death. Just as we should be similarly outraged for John Crawford. And Michael Brown. And Eric Garner. And Trayvon Martin. And Oscar Grant. And Sean Bell. And Tim Stansbury. And Amadou Diallo. I could go on, but it’s too upsetting.

Nine days after Hunt was fatally shot, the Saratoga Springs Police Department released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting2. In response, there is a petition that is being circulated that is calling for a “citizen review board” to reform police officer hiring and training in Utah.

Meanwhile, Utah and Ohio are two states, by the way, where it is actually legal to “open carry” weapons. On tumblr, the writer Keith Boykins reminds us of this fact when he shared the following image.

This is what white privilege looks like

Over the same summer in which unarmed black men were getting gunned down in the streets by police, you also had an uptick in the Open Carry movement in which you had whole crews of white men strolling into Chipotles and Targets brandishing AR-15s and shotguns to “exercise their Second Amendment rights.” Because you need to be packing heat when eating burritos and/or buying toiletries. Anyone want to guess how many of these folks were taken down by the cops?

But if a black man carries a cosplaying sword to a Panda Express in Utah (or leans on a toy gun while talking on his cell in a Wal-Mart in Ohio), you better call 911.

Welcome to post-racial America.

  1. The case of Crawford’s death at the hands of police is even more eerily similar as he was also shot and killed while holding a non-lethal toy weapon in the toy aisle of a Wal-Mart before cops opened fire. 
  2. To put that in perspective, it took the Ferguson Police six days to release Darren Wilson’s name to the press. 

3 thoughts on “The Homicide of Darrien Hunt: An Update

  1. I cannot (and thus will not) respond to the cosplaying angle here since we really do not know for sure if that is what Hunt was engaged in when he was shot. However, in all 36 years of being a Black man on this planet, the question that continues to perplex me with respect to cases like this is, “What makes us such a threat?” When you consider just how “evil” evil can be, whether it be in the comics or in real life, what is it that keeps positioning Black men so squarely in the crosshairs of formal social institutions like law enforcement?. I know the literature and the factors that are continuously presented in the discourse, but I’m no clearer about any of it.

    One thing that is clear is I can’t help but be reminded of when people told me prior to my first trip to Japan how different I would be treated because of the color of my skin and how unsettling the experience would be for me. How right these people were…unlike right here in America, I had never been to a place where the color of my skin was so overwhelmingly disregarded (and thus, welcomed)….and that truly was strange and unusual. I long for that experience again in light of stories like Darrien Hunt. Maybe Darrien too also harbored such a longing…

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