He was dressed for war. And he died in a hail of gunfire.But the battlefield upon which Brandon S. Barrett waged his final fight was not in a distant, dangerous place, but rather, it would appear, in his own mind.In a situation that has become disturbingly frequent across the United States, an armed soldier squared off against a police officer in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon.Barrett, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran recently home from Afghanistan, was in full battle dress, armed with an assault rifle and dozens of rounds of ammunition. It took four minutes from the moment that a frightened witness called 911 to the time that Barrett's bloodied body lay on a small patch of grass behind the opulent Grand America Hotel.The soldier was dead. A police officer wounded. And the fog of war was thick."It's heartbreaking," said Terry Schow, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, who has tirelessly fought for greater mental health services for those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This is so troubling, on so many levels, I cannot even begin to say."And yet, Schow said, the officer may have had little choice in his response. "We understand that officer, and public safety is so very important," he said.Barrett was pacing between 500 and 600 South on State Street shortly after 3:30 p.m. when police arrived. The soldier fired, striking one officer in the leg. The same officer returned fire.Bullets also hit two passing cars on State Street, though no one else was injured.Brandon Westman had just parked his car and was headed for the Bayou restaurant, across the street, when he heard the shots. He ducked behind a building."I was pretty spooked," he said. "I was just like, 'We gotta go. We gotta go.' "Westman said he also saw officers armed with automatic weapons, then heard a "roar of gunfire."The injured officer was taken to a hospital in good condition. He is the third Utah police officer to be shot by a suspect over the past two days. The officer, whose name was not released, has been with the Salt Lake City Police Department for about three years. He is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, as per department policy.The path that led Barrett from the battlefields of Afghanistan, where he served with the Army's 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment in 2009, to his death in Salt Lake City on Friday is unclear. On the soldier's MySpace page, Barrett identified himself as a resident of Tucson, Ariz., and police said he recently had been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash. Also unclear was whether he was still an active member of the military.Ron Bruno, who leads the Crisis Intervention Team for the Salt Lake City Police Department and who has stressed the importance of understanding mental-health issues facing combat veterans said his team was not involved in the situation.Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill, who recently started a program to help veterans who have minor brushes with the law get the mental health treatment they need, said the Friday incident is evidence of the pain soldiers often carry home from war."This is in no way to condone any violence that has occurred, but we need to recognize the fractured lives that some of these men and women are facing," Gill said. "We have to try to transition them in a meaningful way where they can be successful and repair the damage they obtained while in service to this country."As more and more military members return home from the nation's ongoing wars, Schow said, "it is just going to be vital, absolutely vital, to get them into the system to get them the help they need."firstname.lastname@example.org@sltrib.comReporter Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.
Three officers shot in two days
South Jordan • An officer was hit in the leg early Thursday during a raid.
SLC • An officer was injured Friday in a shootout with an armed man near downtown. The gunman died.
Both lawmen are expected to recover.
Kane County • Sheriff's deputy Brian Harris was killed Thursday in a shootout near Fredonia, Ariz. The killer is still at-large.