A Utah prosecutor on Monday said police were justified in shooting and killing a 22-year-old black man accused by officers of lunging at them with a sword the man’s family described as decorative.
Issues of race and police killings had been thrown into the national spotlight just weeks earlier by the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
A grand jury is considering whether to charge the white officer in that case.
Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman told a news conference that police were right to have fatally shot Darrien Hunt in Saratoga Springs in September, saying they feared he could use the samurai-style sword to injure bystanders.
“There were multiple persons that Mr. Hunt could have assaulted or even killed if he had been allowed to continue to escape,” Buhman told reporters at the conference broadcast by television station Fox 13.
Authorities said Hunt lunged at two officers responding to a report of a man walking around with a sword, before he fled and was fatally shot by the policemen.
A private autopsy on Hunt showed he was shot six times, with no bullets entering his body from the front.
He was in costume as a Japanese anime character when he was killed, his mother Susan told the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.
The sword had a dull, rounded blade and was a showpiece instead of a weapon, Hunt’s family said through their attorney.
The Hunt family attorney, Robert Sykes, said on Monday that he would still pursue a wrongful death civil suit against the police department, Fox 13 reported.