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Soldier deserted post a month before dying in Salt Lake City shootout

SHARE Soldier deserted post a month before dying in Salt Lake City shootout

SALT LAKE CITY — Army Spec. Brandon S. Barrett was classified as a deserter just eight days before he shot a Salt Lake City police officer in the leg near the Grand America Hotel on Friday.

The officer, whose identity has not been released, was treated and is now recovering at home, police spokeswoman Robin Snyder said.

Police returned fire, and officials believe it was the wounded officer who shot Barrett in the head, killing him.

The officer was one of three police officers shot Thursday and Friday. South Jordan police officer Stevan Gerber is recovering from surgery after being shot in the leg Thursday while serving an arrest warrant on a man previously convicted of negligent homicide.

Meanwhile, the manhunt continues in southern Utah for Scott Curley, 23, accused of shooting and killing Kane County sheriff's deputy Brian Harris on Thursday.

Barrett was wearing a military uniform, boots and full body armor and had multiple clips of ammunition strapped to his body. It was unclear whether he had slipped into his Interceptor Body Armor of 20-pound front and back plates made of boron carbide or silicon carbide ceramic. The plates are able to stop a certain caliber and amount of bullets from hitting vital organs.

Barrett, 28, had served in Afghanistan with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force between July 14, 2009, and June 26, 2010, according to Maj. Jenny Willis, spokeswoman for the Tacoma, Wash., Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Barrett had been stationed.

Barrett disappeared from the base July 20. Army supervisors classified him then as absent without leave, Willis said. On Aug. 19, they reclassified him as a deserter, and a federal warrant was issued for Barrett's arrest.

Willis was unable to comment on Barrett's mental health history due to health privacy law, but she said Joint Base Lewis-McChord is cooperating with the Salt Lake City Police Department in its investigation of the bloody Friday afternoon incident.

Barrett was a junior enlisted soldier who completed basic and advanced individual training in Georgia, Willis said. He was assigned to C Company, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The soldier joined the armed forces in November 2006 from his home in Tucson, Ariz. His father in Tucson declined to be interviewed about his son.

Barrett's public MySpace page showed that he was a typical man in his 20s. He enjoyed music by Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash and Nirvana. He enjoyed Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and documentaries on the History Channel.

However, Barrett wrote that he'd like to meet Charles Bronson — not the actor but England's "most violent inmate," Barrett wrote. He also mentioned liking the 2009 movie called "Bronson."

Although the military has declined to discuss Barrett's mental health, Tanya Miller, a psychologist in the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, talked in general about the disease.

"Some of the more common symptoms people might notice is the veterans have flashbacks where they feel like they're experiencing trauma," Miller said.

Veterans with PTSD can also have recurring thoughts of trauma, nightmares and difficulty sleeping.

"It really doesn't discriminate based on age or rank or branch of the military," Miller said. "Obviously the rate increases with multiple deployments."

PTSD affects about 18 percent of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq and 25 percent to 30 percent of Vietnam veterans.

The scientific community hasn't yet identified the gene that would be associated with the illness. However, social interaction is key.

PTSD patients tend to avoid crowds. They won't go to the mall or Walmart, Miller said, because during wartime, crowds were vulnerable for mass causalities. Anxiety can set in for soldiers whose patrolled markets or other crowded places.

Veterans who seeking help can attend the VA's PTSD Clinic Walk-In Group at 11 a.m. each Tuesday.

The VA also provides 40 hours of crisis intervention training for police officers, although Miller did not know whether the officer who shot Barrett had been trained.

"We've had hundreds of officers who have gone through that at one point or another," she said.

e-mail: lhancock@desnews.com, rpalmer@desnews.com