TUCSON, ARIZ. - An Army investigation has found that a soldier from Tucson, Ariz., who opened fire on police in Utah last year before being killed was deeply affected by his deployment to Afghanistan.
Spc. Brandon Barrett deserted from his unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, suffered an apparent mental breakdown and died in a shootout with Salt Lake City police on Aug. 27. An officer was wounded.
The Army report provided to his family and shared with the Arizona Daily Star concluded he saw so much mayhem during his yearlong deployment that he was deeply affected.
At least three times during his year overseas with the 5th Stryker Brigade, Barrett, a 28-year-old infantryman, saw comrades killed or wounded by suicide bombers or explosives.
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“Spc. Barrett had experienced significant losses in combat that affected his behavior and actions leading up to the incident,” that killed him, the report said.
The report recommended several changes to help troops returning from combat to Lewis-McChord. Those include a hot line and better documentation of AWOL soldiers.
Officials at the base were slow to react and failed to notify the soldier’s family when the first hints of trouble surfaced, according to the report. Those oversights have left his family agonizing over whether the death was preventable.
“My family and I strongly believe that if notification had been made. in a timely manner, Brandon would be with us here today,” Shane Barrett, a Tucson police detective, said of his younger brother. “We could have at least had the opportunity to help him.”
The Army denied Barrett a military funeral, enraging many combat veterans.
No one at Army headquarters has read the report on Barrett’s case because it wasn’t sent up the chain of command and wasn’t required to be, spokesman George Wright said.
Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lamont, who made the call to ban military funeral honors for Barrett, considered “all available facts at the time of the soldier’s death,” Wright said. “The Army stands by the decision.”
Despite the signs that he was having problems after returning from combat, including an on-base drunken-driving arrest, superiors did not consider him at risk of postwar problems. He was sent to a substance-abuse program but was not examined for underlying mental health issues, the report said.