The 3,800-member 5th brigade, which lost 37 in combat, returned home last May, when it was inactivated and reflagged as the 2nd Stryker brigade. Tunnell, now at Fort Knox, did not respond to a request for comment. In a farewell to his unit last September, according to a report in the Fort Lewis Ranger, Tunnell told the troops, "Our casualties at first were due to the fact we went into places that had not seen large formation of [American soldiers], places that were infested with Taliban . . . " His methods eventually allowed U.S. forces to gain the upper hand, he said. "What I hope the citizens of the United States will remember about us is that . . . we lived up to our commitment to the American people by honorably performing our duty in combat."

But Tunnell's approach caused confusion, mistrust, and uncertainty among the ranks, adds Metrovic. Or as Morlock put it before he was sentenced on March 23, "I realize now I wasn't fully prepared for the reality of war . . . I lived in fear of being killed by them [the enemy] every day."


Curt Merlo
When he wasn't engaged in combat, Barrett loved playing combat-related video games.
Photo courtesy of Barrett family
When he wasn't engaged in combat, Barrett loved playing combat-related video games.

Brandon Barrett, as he'd later tell his mother, had felt that way too. Now, inside the garage of the Grand America in downtown Salt Lake City, two months after his tour of Afghan combat, he still seemed confused about who might be friendly. He stood by the elevator door, looking around, appearing uncertain about what to do next.

That's when hotel security officer Robyn Salmon passed by, started to go through a nearby door, then stopped. The sight of a fully armed soldier in her garage spooked her. She came back. Her conversation with Barrett, she tells Village Voice Media, went thus:

Salmon: Excuse me, sir, can I help you?

Barrett: I need to go up.

Salmon: To what floor? I'm with security. I can assist you.

Barrett: Just up.

Salmon: Are you on assignment? I need to know what floor you're going to.

Barrett: Where is the stairwell?

Salmon: I'm sorry, sir, we don't have a stairwell here.

Barrett: Okay then, you better call the police.

Salmon: Okay then, follow me out.

To Salmon's surprise, he did. The 60-year-old daughter of a former Salt Lake City assistant police chief thinks it was her grandmotherly presence that got him to come with her.

"He wasn't threatening, but he was determined," she recalls. "I certainly didn't want him up in our tower with a gun. But I still wasn't sure if he was on some assignment, part of some Army event or something."

Outside the garage, where she had phone reception, Salmon dialed 911, half-thinking the soldier might want to talk to an officer. But Barrett strolled onward, heading out toward daylight. "I said, 'Sir?' But he continued walking."

Hotel security cameras focused on what Barrett did next: pace back and forth in a large parking lot bordered by a hedgerow and plants next to a traffic-filled street. It's a warm, cloudy afternoon, and Barrett seems to waddle under the weight of his equipment, the semi-automatic AR-15 slung downward, cradled in his right arm. He checks his watch and walks in and out of a treed area, back along the edge of the parking lot. He seems to have no idea what to do next. A group of people passes by on the other side of the trees, but he pays no attention. He moves back and forth — all this caught on video, almost six minutes of walking, stopping, turning, and walking again. If he indeed had planned to take an elevated shooting vantage atop the hotel — his equipment pack included a rifle scope and a bipod gun mount — that no longer seems operative. Perhaps he heard Salmon calling the police.

A Salt Lake City police officer with the memorable name of Uppsen Downes was first on the scene, swinging into the parking lot driveway and spotting the hard-to-miss G.I. Joe raising his rifle in the far corner. As Downes stepped out of his car about 75 feet from Barrett, the soldier immediately crouched in a defensive position, utilizing the hedgerow for cover — techniques he might have used in Afghanistan. Downes started to shout for the soldier to drop his weapon, but before the cop could finish, Barrett opened fire. He clicked off 10 rounds. Most hit Downes' police cruiser, but one struck the officer in the left leg. A wounded Downes, using his car for cover, doggedly returned fire with his handgun. He managed to get off three shots. One hit Barrett's most vulnerable spot: his unprotected face. He was dead within seconds.

Security officer Salmon, a civilian employee of the Salt Lake City Police Department for 37 years, says she stood behind a concrete post for most of the shooting but talked with police about the incident and thinks Barrett was intent on suicide-by-cop. "The soldier was trained to shoot, but his first shot [at the officer] missed low," she says. "I think that was intentional," forcing Downes to return fire.

In Barrett's vehicle, police later found a note scribbled on an Army-issued notebook, according to Barrett's brother. It read: "You can't take a man away from his family. Lessons must be learned from this event." It didn't make much sense at the time, and the name Barrett made for himself was likely not what he had in mind: Army deserter shot by police. But, as promised, he made the news that night.

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The federal government will pay for their war crimes some day. They send these ignorant young people to do their bidding, not so that citizens can be free, but so that politicians and war contractors can get rich. Its ridiculous the brainwashing that occurs in this nation. I hope china attacks the USA one day focusing on wiping out government installments. Fuck the US federal government, I hope you all die.

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The members of the VFW were truly exemplary of the good in man.My condolences to the Barrett family, and to all families touched by these horrific governmental mistakes abroad.

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RIP Brandon. Angel wings of comfort to his family. The toll of war is tragic. All around a very sad series of events. Blessings to the Army, and all the soldiers serving in valor for our country. I believe in our Armed Forces despite the casualties that can't help but happen. Bless and comfort them all. Amen.

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