A security guard patrolling the plaza between two Utah state government offices early Wednesday morning argued with a trespasser and shot him twice in the back as he was walking away, Salt Lake City police say.
Timothy Lutes, 26, an employee of Citadel Security USA, is now being held at the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of homicide.
Lutes encountered the trespasser after 5 a.m. and asked him to leave the property, which is closed to the public at that time every day. The security guard shined his flashlight in the man’s eyes, said Sgt. Brandon Shearer, and the two then got in a fight with both throwing punches for “quite some time.”
At one point, Lutes told police, the trespasser removed the guard’s holster from around his waist, pulled out his gun and pointed it at him, according to a probable cause statement. But after reviewing surveillance footage captured by a camera on one of the buildings, officers say the trespasser, Thomas Stanfield, 54, tried to leave several times and Lutes reinitiated contact each time.
When Stanfield turned his back to leave the last time, taking several steps away, Lutes shot and killed him, Shearer said. Stanfield died at the scene, near 140 E. 300 South between the Utah Department of Workforce Services and the Utah Department of Commerce and Labor Commission offices.
“People do have a right to defend their life if they fear their life is threatened,” Shearer said. “Based off what detectives learned during their investigation of this case, they did not feel that that was necessarily what happened.”
Michelle Higgins, Stanfield’s 24-year-old daughter, said her father was homeless and believes he was at the Workforce Services building — where he went every day — to apply for jobs.
“He was trying to get help from the state,” she said. “He was just walking by.”
While the department helps Utahns find work, it offers those services at other locations, a spokesman said.
Higgins put up a memorial at the site of the shooting with balloons and a sign that says “Justice 4 Thomas will be served!” She said she forgives Lutes but wishes the security guard had handled the situation more calmly.
“He could’ve handled his anger a little differently,” Higgins added. “I don’t think it was fair at all. … I’m just glad the dude’s behind bars and that justice is being served for my father.”
Higgins, who lives in Layton, saw Stanfield last month. She said he had loved playing with his grandson, who asked Wednesday morning: “What about Tom? Where’s Tom?”
“They loved each other,” she said. “[My son] is pretty heartbroken about it.”
Citadel Security USA released a statement Wednesday confirming the security guard’s employment and saying the company is “fully cooperating” with police during the investigation. But, it adds, “it would be inaccurate and incredibly irresponsible for us to make any statements without knowing the facts in this case.”
“We have heart felt grief for the individual that lost their life and our thoughts and prayers go out to their family. As an organization that helps protect our community, our priority is to make sure all within our organization meet the highest standards.”
Security guards must be licensed in the state of Utah to carry a gun.
Employees at the Olene Walker Building and the Heber M. Wells Building arrived Wednesday to find a body covered by a sheet and a portable awning. The crime scene was taped off, but workers were able to enter their offices.
Clarification: 1:10 p.m. June 21: This story and headline have been updated to clarify that the Department of Workforce Services does not offer job placements services at this location.