Chief: Army Didn’t Warn Us Of Disgruntled Soldier
Brandon Barrett got into trouble after his tour in Afghanistan. His family wishes they, and the Army, could have helped. [Personal Photo]
The Salt Lake Tribune via YellowBrix
October 13, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said he had a conversation with Army investigators about “what could have happened and what should have happened” after the military learned that a distraught soldier, who had threatened violence, was headed for Utah.
Burbank confirmed Tuesday that his department received no warning from the Army that the soldier, who had recently returned home from the war in Afghanistan, was en route to Utah where he intended to “make a statement.”
The soldier’s family and members of his unit have said that Army investigators knew about Brandon Barrett’s threats and his intention to come to Utah up to a week before he engaged a Salt Lake City police officer in a firefight.
While noting that it is easy to criticize in retrospect and saying he didn’t want to point fingers, Burbank said that if his department had more information, it may have chosen to enlist the public, through the media, to watch for Barrett and could have prepared its officers for a potential conflict with the well-trained and battle-hardened sniper.
Barrett was wearing full body armor and carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition when he was confronted by officer Uppsen Downes outside the downtown Grand America Hotel on Aug. 27. Barrett was able to fire several shots at Downes, including one that struck the officer in the leg, before Downes returned fire, killing the soldier with a shot to the head.
Among the threats Barrett had made, according to a member of his unit: “It’s almost over — 36 hours from now, I’ll be dead. I’ve got one hell of an argument and about 1,000 rounds to prove my point.”
Burbank said his department tries to share as much information as possible with colleagues in other jurisdictions when there is concern for public safety. Whether or not the Army could have prevented what happened on that Friday afternoon, had it followed the same protocol, was a matter of speculation, Burbank said.
A spokeswoman at Joint Base Lewis-McChord said the base’s Provost Marshal’s office issued a “Be On The Lookout” order for Barrett on Aug. 26 through the National Criminal Information Center, but said she was unaware if authorities in Utah were specifically informed. Maj. Jenny Willis said that Barrett “kept his threats fairly vague.”Barrett had been arrested for driving under the influence just days after his return. And fellow soldiers say he was publicly reprimanded by his first sergeant, who threatened to take away his post-deployment leave.
Barrett left without permission, and when he arrived home in Arizona, his family said they didn’t know that he was absent without leave. His brother, Tucson police Detective Shane Barrett, has complained that the military failed to follow its own rules for handling missing soldiers when it failed to contact his family.
“The system failed this individual … who was not prepared” to deal with his transition from war, Burbank said. “He served his country and lost his life at the hands of a Salt Lake City police officer.”
Burbank again commended Downes’ actions but said it was unfortunate that the incident wasn’t prevented.