Officials unaware of threat by AWOL soldier

Army officials knew that a distraught and AWOL soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord who had recently returned from Afghanistan was headed to Utah with ammunition, weapons and a grudge, but they didn’t warn local authorities, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that 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. But Army officials Tuesday discounted the story and said they knew only that Barrett was planning to pass through Utah.

Barrett was classified as a deserter from Lewis-McChord, where he returned this summer after a year in Afghanistan with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He dressed in full combat gear, showed up at a large hotel 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.

An Army spokeswoman told The News Tribune of Tacoma on Tuesday that Barrett had been in touch with his platoon leader and an Army chaplain after he left Tucson, Ariz., where he visited family, and reassured them that he was on his way back to Lewis-McChord on or around Aug. 23. He said he planned to stop in Utah to visit a friend.

Around Aug. 25, however, he posted a Facebook message and sent text messages that indicated he was going to hurt himself or others.