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Security expert: Armed guards may only shoot to save a life

SALT LAKE CITY A fatal shooting by a security guard on the job downtown has prompted discussion about training and licensing requirements in the state, which were reduced this year.

With 40 years of experience in the business and training armed security officers, Rob Anderton says his focus is on keeping the gun holstered and calling for help.

"The firearm, we view as a deterrent," he said. "In most cases, the security officer can retreat."

Timothy Richard Lutes

Salt Lake County Jail

Timothy Richard Lutes

While Anderton said he believes the training standards in Utah are adequate, he talked with the licensing board this year about adding additional training for armed guards.

This shooting, he said, may rekindle that conversation.

Security guard Timothy Richard Lutes, 26, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of murder Wednesday after police say he shot Thomas Ray Stanfield, 54, twice in the back as Stanfield was walking away from him. Criminal charges had not been filed in the case as of Friday.

Lutes, who works for Citadel Security, is accused of getting into a fight and killing Stanfield after asking him to leave the plaza area between the Heber Wells and Department of Workforce Services buildings, on 300 South between 140 East and 160 East, according to police.

Security guards, or security officers, must complete state-approved training to be licensed in Utah.

A bill passed by the Utah Legislature earlier this year, SB197, modified provisions of the Security Personnel Licensing Act. The law that went into effect May 8 states private security guards must "successfully complete basic education and training requirements," which dropped from 24 hours of classroom or online curriculum time to a minimum of eight hours.

The law also clarifies the hours needed for firearms training. It says a candidate must "successfully complete firearms training requirements which shall include a minimum of 12 hours of training." In the past, required time for firearm training was not specified.

A crime scene photographer takes photos of a Citadel Security vehicle at the scene of a fatal shooting, involving a Citadel Security guard, between the Heber M. Wells Building and the Olene S. Walker Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A crime scene photographer takes photos of a Citadel Security vehicle at the scene of a fatal shooting, involving a Citadel Security guard, between the Heber M. Wells Building and the Olene S. Walker Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Today, there are 3,666 licensed unarmed private security officers in Utah, and 1,342 armed private security officers, according to Jennifer Bolton, the spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Commerce.

Records at the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing show Lutes was licensed as an unarmed private security officer in January 2015 and was licensed as an armed private security officer in November of 2017. The license is good for a year.

Anderton has trained security guards for decades and served on the Utah Security Personnel Licensing Board for nearly a decade. He is also chairman of the Professional Alliance of Contract Security Companies.

A guard should be a visual deterrent, Anderton said, and can only legally shoot to save his own life or the life of another person in imminent danger.

"When in doubt, don't," he said. "If you have a question, call your supervisor."

People walk by the scene of a fatal shooting between the Heber M. Wells Building and the Olene S. Walker Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

People walk by the scene of a fatal shooting between the Heber M. Wells Building and the Olene S. Walker Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

If Anderton were the head of a security team today, he says, he would tell his officers the need to brandish a firearm should be rare. "There are very few situations that would require you to do something extraordinary," he said.

"It's there to protect the officer, protect people," said Anderton. "The actual use in a security situation should be just so minuscule."

Security guards are trained to de-escalate the situation, just like police, he said. "Usually, if you can't talk your way out of it, you back off and call for back up," said Anderton.

"We try to pound that into them because once the trigger is pulled, a whole chain of events happens," he added.

Police officers have more rights and more training with firearms. They can use it to enforce the law, or to make somebody comply, he said. A security guard cannot. Trainees have been taught to retreat and call for help whenever possible.

"Don't do it unless it's a clear and imminent danger to you, or somebody else," Anderton said. "If you do something, you're going to be liable for it. If there's a gun involved, it's going to be really, really bad. So, please think about what you're doing."

Anderton said this week's shooting is the first security officer shooting he's heard of where a person was shot. He said he knows of officers injured when they pulled their guns and shot themselves, but never shot another person.

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc