SALT LAKE CITY – Army officials knew about a distraught and AWOL soldier recently back from Afghanistan was headed to Utah with ammunition, weapons and a grudge but didn't warn local authorities, a newspaper reported.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday that Army Spc. Brandon Barrett sent text messages to fellow soldiers warning that he was preparing for death in Utah with "one hell of an argument and about 1,000 rounds to prove my point." The newspaper reported that military records show Army investigators were worried that Barrett might commit a mass shooting.
A spokeswoman for Barrett's commanders said Tuesday that she doesn't believe such records exist and that Barrett wasn't considered a risk to others.
Maj. Jenny Willis, of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash., said Barrett told a chaplain he planned to answer for his desertion and face a charge of drunken driving the day after his return from Afghanistan.
Barrett was classified as a deserter when he dressed in full combat gear and engaged in a gunfight with a Salt Lake City police officer in late August. He was shot and killed by the officer, whom he wounded.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank told The Associated Press that detectives never determined why Barrett chose Utah for a fatal encounter with police or how long he had been in town.
Burbank told reporters Tuesday that his department wasn't notified by Army officials of Barrett's intentions, but said the military's failure to notify authorities was understandable.
Barrett's random threats didn't convey a specific plan and it wasn't clear if the threats were credible, he said.
The soldier from Tucson, Ariz., was captured on video surveillance at the Grand America Hotel being approached by a hotel security officer who stopped him as he tried to take an elevator to the lobby.
When the officer, Robyn Salmon, said he could not, he replied: "OK then. You better call the police."
Barrett then walked out of the garage, where another video camera followed him as he paced in a parking lot, apparently waiting for police. He had several encounters with residents around the hotel but didn't seem intent on shooting them, Burbank told KSL Radio on Tuesday.
Outside the hotel, Barrett shot and wounded a police officer in the leg, and was later killed by the officer, who shot him in the head.
"This was his only way out," said Burbank.
The soldier's brother, Shane Barrett — a Tucson police detective — said Army investigators knew Brandon Barrett was headed to Utah for a violent confrontation but didn't notify authorities. Shane Barrett has been critical of the way the military treated his brother after his return from Afghanistan.
Willis said Army officials spared no effort working with the Barrett family and Tucson police to persuade Brandon Barrett to return. He told a chaplain and others he planned to return to Tacoma four days before the shootout.
"There was no smoking gun as far as a mental health issue," Willis said.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com