By Anonymous | June 1, 2015 - 16:56 | Posted in CyberGuerrilla | 1 Comment
The boy who heard crickets: Darrien Hunt, the Mormons, and the Zion Curtain of silence

“You’re just hassling me. I don’t have to talk to you.”

Seven shots to the back later, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was dead. Chased down like an animal by an officer of the law, Corporal Matthew Schauerhamer of the Saratoga Springs Police Department, the only thing Darrien did wrong was carry a sheathed katana sword, sauntering proudly along, music running through his ears, his beautiful brown face and characteristic Afro alarming the local white people.

Death by 911.

“You’re just hassling me. I don’t have to talk to you.”

These are the last words that Darrien Hunt is believed to have spoken. This is, however, being intensely debated in a fight between Darrien’s family; the Saratoga Springs Police Department and Utah County Attorney’s Office; and now, the Department of Justice.

Why it is even questioned in a case where there were two officers involved; supposedly countless witnesses; videotape from the officers, from their equipment, surrounding businesses; and more, is astounding and yet alarmingly typical. It shouldn’t be typical. We should be shocked. And that is why everything about this is so wrong; why it epitomizes what has happened with police departments across the nation. Why young black men are being killed for having the gall to walk around in public being black, exhibiting the same rights others have. Darrien had a katana sword in an open-carry state. He was different. Someone didn’t like that.

But Darrien’s case has special ramifications, because in 2014 while black people historically rose up for their rights in Ferguson, Missouri, after Mike Brown was brutally murdered, Utah saw crickets. Nothing. No one was talking about the young black man shot to death in a white city in Utah County, the mecca of Mormondom. Why did Darrien Hunt die? Was he a threat because he carried a katana sword? The people who killed him–they swore race was not an issue. But in a snow-white city filled predominantly with members of a historically-racially prejudiced religion, how was the fact he was black not an issue? It simply isn’t possible. You cannot look at Darrien Hunt’s picture and not see he was different, and he stood out. To deny this is to deny you need water to drink or food to eat.

Darrien Hunt is black.

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DARRIEN HUNT WAS BLACK

So why pretend he’s not; that it never entered anyone’s mind? Perhaps we can attribute this to fear. We are threatened by the mistakes of the past, and lack of knowledge in an uncertain future. The community chose to rally around the police force that dug a deeper and deeper hole filled with festering lies. The more they and the Utah County Attorney’s office fought to cover it up, and the more Darrien’s family and few warriors fought to get the news out there, the deeper the silence became. Thick and clinging, it had a life of its own. No one would talk. Documents weren’t turned over. Videotape was not released, then disappeared. Lies were told. Deals were made. The family was stonewalled.

As we pressed in this investigation, we learned that a body camera; a dash cam video; video from the Panda Express (altered); video from the Cyprus Credit Union (suppressed then altered) just magically went poof, like they had no substance. Stories flew off the tongues of the county attorney, his investigators, his staff, and the staff of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. Those tales changed drastically sometimes daily and often by the week. These are all documented in the press, and especially well by The Guardian’s Jon Swaine.

But they were still lies, and impossible to refute. So they just stopped talking. Or handing over evidence. Cpl. Matthew Schauerhamer lied six times in his official statement to his own police department and investigation team. And thus far, all these months later, not one charge has been filed against him.

The Department of Justice is investigating, the family has filed a lawsuit, and no one is talking about Darrien anymore, while the waves of killings go on across the nation, and again we have crickets. Why?

Originally, we—Darrien’s Warriors–took to Twitter to bring notice to this case, because no one in Utah would utter so much as a peep. And we got it, finally, thanks to #Anonymous. An amazing group of people set up #opDarrienHunt and became relentless in fighting for justice for Darrien Hunt when no one else would. Someone was finally helping. Helping Susan Hunt, and Darrien’s remaining brother and sisters. Her family. Me. But who am I? Why do I matter?

I don’t, really. Not to this story, at least in my mind. But, I was raised in Utah, and have lived my life here among fragile egos and ticking time bombs of historical documents that don’t stand the test of exposure and light. That happens. Belief is not always the same as truth, but we were raised with only one true thing. We were Mormons. And we had it. The gospel. Our priesthood authorities, and our leaders, were not to be questioned.

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.

I was raised with this idiom, but it never defined me. I understand it, but I don’t work within it. I will always fight to expose wrongdoing and injustice.

In this case, I fought for Darrien quietly, but in the end, it became impossible to write this story about Darrien without acknowledging the fact this is about me, too, and all Latter-day Saints, because I am tied to him through his mother, through our Mormon lineage, through our heritage, through our culture. Through a wall of silence that needs to fall.

In a state known for its high Mormon population, Utah County’s moniker is “Happy Valley.” For many, it espouses everything that is Mormonism–clean, wholesome, family-oriented. Businesses that don’t open on Sundays; families that stay together through thick and thin. But of course, it is a county made up of cities, with real people, and real problems. You can try to hide that behind pretty pictures, but the damage eventually seeps through. Life is real. People are hungry, addicted, and amoral. Everyone is touched by something raw and wrong. It is impossible to navigate through this life without being scuffed by by the angry raw animal that is life. Whether–as in Mormonism–its fundamental polygamy and abuses, or sexual abuse covered up by early leaders, it’s there. In any religion. In any culture. You have to talk about it, or it will always fester.

LIVING IN UTAH

I grew up on these streets, in a similar suburb outside of Salt Lake City. I went to high school with Susan Hunt, Darrien’s mother. I remember her as a petite, friendly cute girl. I wouldn’t say we hung out in the same crowd, but I wouldn’t say we weren’t friends, either. I liked her. I think she liked me. Today, we are close friends. We talk regularly on the phone, and check in with each other. Life is not easy. We both know that. We have both been touched.

Born just three weeks before my oldest daughter, her oldest son wasn’t given a chance to live longer than his twenty-second year. Three weeks into it, Corporal Matthew Schauerhamer of the Saratoga Springs Utah Police Department, shot him seven times in the back as he chased a mortally wounded Darrien through a strip mall as though Darrien carried an assault rifle in one arm and a passel of grenades in another.

But after high school, our reconnect didn’t happen immediately. It was more than 30 years later at a rally for her son, Darrien Hunt. One of the biggest regrets I have is that I never got to meet Darrien. Born just three weeks before my oldest daughter, her oldest son wasn’t given a chance to live longer than his twenty-second year. Three weeks into it, Corporal Matthew Schauerhamer of the Saratoga Springs Utah Police Department, shot him seven times in the back as he chased a mortally wounded Darrien through a strip mall as though Darrien carried an assault rifle in one arm and a passel of grenades in another.

In reality, it was none of those things. He was a man-boy, trying to find himself, looking for a job, walking up to his death party with no knowledge it was about to happen. He smiled at the men who would kill him just seconds later. He smiled.

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Within seconds, Schauerhamer hunted Darrien down like an animal, and the last shots he fired were at a boy who was already either down or falling, his pants around his knees. He was no threat. He was simply the target for Schauerhamer’s rage that day.

The police statements were the usual “feared for his life” and pro-police Utahns shook their heads, and turned away.

Because that is what the “good” people here do. Because if you just do what the police tell you to do, you won’t have a problem. You won’t get hurt. But they ignored the facts. The very real facts that we discovered. Despite his sworn testimony, with the testimonies of others, and even hidden witnesses who will not come forward out of fear, the facts say this: Corporal Matthew Shauerhamer said nothing. He did not warn Darrien. Darrien turned to walk away, and the cop just started shooting.

There were most likely no warnings at all to Darrien, who had done nothing wrong. The smear on his life, the fear mongering, the “oh my God, thank you for killing that dangerous criminal before he could hurt us” happened after the fact. And it was all a lie. There were no drugs in Darrien Hunt’s system. No one agrees with Schauerhamer’s story of what happened, including his co-defendant and fellow officer, Nicholas Judson. And there is no proof the police warned Darrien Hunt, or that he was disobeying any command.

Because that is what the “good” people here do. Because if you just do what the police tell you to do, you won’t have a problem. You won’t get hurt. But they ignored the facts. The very real facts that we discovered. Despite his sworn testimony, with the testimonies of others, and even hidden witnesses who will not come forward out of fear, the facts say this: Corporal Matthew Shauerhamer said nothing. He did not warn Darrien. Darrien turned to walk away, and the cop just started shooting.

Listening to the police will not save you if you are different.

We knew this. And when we tried to get the facts out—to tell people what really happened—we met the Zion Curtain of silence. And underneath, the army of trolls, trying to smear the life of a boy who hadn’t yet lived. And so we fought back.


THE ZION CURTAIN

My involvement in Susan’s case was one I chose to keep from the media from the very beginning. I knew my way around this playing field. I’ve been a writer in this state all my life. You simply don’t write anything that isn’t faith promoting. It isn’t done. It’s not the Mormon way, and I was raised the Mormon way. Thus, I was the “anti-Mormon,” a former LDS member with a proverbial “ax to grind.” I liked to joke that this was not really true, because I was accident prone, and me and sharp metal objects aren’t really a good mix. But, they stuck it on me so I took it and ran. With ax, like the proverbial scissors. I survived it.

Yes, I did not agree with the teachings, but all Mormons are not bad. That’s a label. It doesn’t work. So many good people come from here. And like in other places, good people believe different things. It is their basic right as human beings, and we cannot take that from them.

But we also cannot let them take what belongs to others away.

On September 10, 2014, Darrien was brutally shot and killed. Before this, I had taken on the cause of bullying and rape culture, and after talking with Susan and her sisters, I knew I wanted to help. Given my high profile, however, and after talking to some trusted advisors, we decided that my platform would only prove detrimental to Susan Hunt and getting notice for Darrien. So I didn’t speak of my writing, didn’t use my connections, or make it known who I was.

I was simply working for Darrien as Susan’s friend.

YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT THE CHURCH IN UTAH

It is a well-known fact that you do not attack the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without repercussions. You must avoid this at all costs. In articles you write, press conferences you have, websites you build, blogs you write or build, and on and on. Lawmakers will not help you. Police officers will not shield you. Caseworkers will not take your side. And your neighbors will turn a blind eye on you, because you have turned against the Church.

We knew this going in, so we were careful not to bring it up.

Utah County is a hotbed of Mormonism, and the police force that responded that day is overwhelmingly white and Mormon. Even if they are not active churchgoers, and many are, the religion is a part of life. Even if you don’t practice it, you understand it, protect it. You evoke it when needed. It colors who you are.

The city itself, Saratoga Springs, is listed by census data as 95 percent white, or other. Just a .05 percent of a black population. Darrien, with his striking textured afro and interestingly angled-and-contoured warm brown face, stood out. He was different, he carried a katana sword, so someone called 911, and a cop shot him, and he shouldn’t have, and they tried to cover it up. It’s not much more complicated than that. Except this: the Mormon Church never acknowledged the crime. Darrien, at 22, was a member of the LDS Church. And Mia Love, who was fighting for a seat in congress at the time this happened never acknowledged his death on her city streets. She was the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, a city that had corruption at its roots from its inception. This is all well-documented by other people. It’s truth. And she’s never addressed it. Darrien died, his blood is on her streets, and she turned her head on one of her own. And continues to do so.

I’m sure you’ve heard her name. Mia B. Love is known as the first Haitian-American and the first black female Republican in Congress, as well as the first black person to be elected to Congress from Utah. Born to Haitian parents in Brooklyn, New York, Love was elected as the Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, serving from 2010 to 2014. She did her job there just like the rest of them. Not well.

How could she never say one word about Darrien’s death?

IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE

In the end, even reading this, people will say, “It’s not the Church, it’s the people.” And they will dismiss this blog simply because I am not a faithful Mormon, and this is not about how wonderful Mormonism is to all who live its teachings. They think I am a have an ax to grind, but… they’re wrong about that, and right about this: it’s not about the Church. It’s about the people.

The very bad man who shot and killed Darrien Hunt because he was black, and then turned to everyone around him to help him lie and cover it up. Matthew Schauerhamer, this is about you. And it’s about the bad people in Utah County who agreed to help him. Who had to have seen the facts, known Schauerhamer was guilty, and lying, and still turned their backs on a grieving mother, trying to smear the memory of a young man’s name. A young boy with promise. Darrien Hunt. Not a hash tag. And outside of Utah, it has even become the fault of some of the activists who don’t see instant fame and fortune writing about this biracial boy at the risk of alienatiing the “Mormon Corridor.” Utah, Idaho, Arizona and into California. Don’t kid yourself that people don’t know this very powerful swath of lobbyists and people exist, and stay away from them.

Even for them, it is easier to pick someone who will cause more outrage. This half-black young man from Utah resonates with many, but not with all. But he should.

To DeRay McKesson, and the allies around him, Darrien Hunt mattered. He never forgot the boy who heard crickets. The black community, as a whole, embraced Darrien while no other seemed to. Sean Jordan is another vocal ally on Twitter. Jon Swaine, from the Guardian, who wrote the stories that offered the truth, while the mainstream media—especially those in Utah—just repeated what the authorities told them. But along with those supporters, there are those who just left him to disappear in silence. The authorities who lied and covered up the crimes of a bad police officer, in a corrupt town, in a community that continues to stalk and harass his family. The nationwide activists/writers who promised to write Darrien’s story, then moved on to hotter, more explosive stories that would bring great fame.

Darrien was just the boy who heard crickets.

Darren’s family still watches the police sit outside their house for hours. People stare when they walk into public places. Taryn, Darrien’s sister, endured an encounter with a racist towtruck driver who literally stole her car in front of her eyes. The police showed up to back him up. The man from Beehive Towing was drunk, belligerent, open-carrying a weapon and had two “goons” with him in order to protect him from this black girl and her black boyfriend. A young girl who had no weapons, a car, and tried to pay the driver as he drove off with her vehicle. Another criminal allowed to get away with robbing the oppressed.

It is racism at work, again. And no one stops it. They watch.

Crickets. We got attention. But it was from the outside world. And when it stopped, it was just like it started. Hitting a wall of silence that was too strong to break through.

So as we joined forces with #opDarrien Hunt, #Anonymous and other allies, screaming the name and putting out the hashtag #DarrienHunt; Utah remained mostly silent. And has continued to do so. Except for the trollish people who attack the mother, the family, his character on newspaper comment sites and on Twitter. Those things will never change. While the tide is turning across the nation, as people in the United States have either watched with churning stomachs, or turned their heads, as a disproportionate amount of young black men across the country have been murdered—by police, Darrien Hunt is mostly ignored.

His family is stalked by the Saratoga Springs Police Department. His killers are loose on the streets, with guns and badges. No one donates to the fund set up to try and get the family out of the community that does not want them there, because they spotlight everything that is wrong with—society. With bad people. Not Mormonism. This is not a religious problem. It’s a thinking problem. We need to open our minds and hearts and realize no one is better than anyone else, and oppression is a dangerous tool used by the weak-minded and cowardly, born of fear and a lack of understanding It will have fearsome consequences and backlash. It is unavoidable.

So now I write this. Even though I wanted me to stay out of it. Who I was and who I am don’t really matter, do they? I wanted my past dead and buried, to stop dwelling on it, but then my friend Susan buried her son. That was real. A real grave, with a real life taken in its prime, because a police officer couldn’t, wouldn’t, and didn’t choose to use his authority by the rules. And those around him chose to cover it up. And even when it became patently obvious he was lying, and they were lying, and the community was lying, they still never once said “I’m sorry we shot your son.”

Because if they said they were sorry, they would have to go back and relive all the years of wrongdoing. All the years of victim-blaming, and second-class citizen-hood that existed and still exists in Utah today. While black men have been allowed to hold the Mormon priesthood since 1978, women have never and probably will never be allowed to do so. It’s their church. Not mine. I don’t quibble with their choices, until it affects me and mine.

Or someone else’s child.

Or Darrien Hunt.

To help the Hunt family, please go here to donate:

http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/darrien-hunt-memorial-fund/350835

For more about Darrien’s story, visit the extensive coverage in The Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/16/darrien-hunt-shot-in-the-back-by-utah-police-says-family-attorney

Natalie R. Collins is the author of the BleedingHeartBlog. http://www.bleedingheartblog.com

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One Response to The boy who heard crickets: Darrien Hunt, the Mormons, and the Zion Curtain of silence

  1. We had a run in with Shauhamer before Darrian was shot. He was a loose cannon. He is not a person who should be a police officer. We need outside investigators for our police departments. It is the only way to police the police.