MILLCREEK — Salt Lake County Sheriff's SWAT team members shot and killed a man who had been firing a shotgun off his balcony in a crowded apartment complex Friday afternoon.
"The man was very specific during a phone negotiation that his intent was to do harm and that this was going to end badly," Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said at the scene. "He was a dynamic and aggressive individual."
No one else was injured during the 40-minute confrontation in which George D. Huntzinger, 65, repeatedly walked out on his small third-floor balcony and fired shots at opposing apartment windows, cars and "toward officers," according to Salt Lake County Sheriff Lt. Don Hutson.
A maintenance worker for the heavily populated 15-building Cottonwood Apartments, 4705 S. 900 East, called 911 at 3:15 p.m. He said he was working on the first floor when he heard two shots, Hutson said. When he wandered out to see exactly what it was, he saw a man wave a rifle then point it in his direction.
There were several minutes of silence.
Many neighbors who misinterpreted the noise went about their business.
Alex Fullmer, who initially thought the pops were fireworks, left his mother home and ran an errand with his father.
Minutes later, his mother called him in a panic.
"She told me that when she looked out her window, he pointed the gun right at her," he said. "Then the guy started shooting at her."
By that time, two initial responding deputies reported shots fired and called for backup, which wasn't far away. By coincidence, eight law enforcement agencies were conducting a combined training exercise near the area when the call came in. Within 15 minutes almost two-dozen fully equipped SWAT officers swarmed the parking lot and adjacent apartment buildings, supported by a bullet-proof Humvee and two-dozen other emergency vehicles.
Before officers showed up and took over resident Layne Hirst's balcony for a look at the gunman's position, Hirst said he watched the "insane commotion" unfold.
"He (the gunman) just walked out once in a while and shot," Hirst said. "I could only hear muffled yells but he (Huntzinger) just wouldn't listen to them. I don't blame them for doing what they did."
Officials would not say where the shots were fired from that killed Huntzinger, but several high-powered ammunition shell casings lay in the parking lot below the balcony, next to broken glass from a shot-up vehicle, behind which SWAT team members took cover. They were armed with fully automatic machine guns.
Several witnesses reported seeing "younger men" with guns on nearby balconies. Hutson confirmed the sightings were of responding out-of-uniform officers.
After Huntzinger shot toward officers, two SWAT members shot him, hitting him twice in the upper body, Hutson said. The gunman dropped to the floor of his balcony and remained motionless. Officers eventually moved in and raided his apartment in search of hostages. Huntzinger told officers during a negotiation conversation that he had "several hostages gagged and bound up there," Winder said. "But he was completely alone."
The man had only lived at Cottonwood Apartments for about a month, but during that time his wife had filed to divorce him, according to 3rd District Court documents and officials.
Officials said Huntzinger's family had taken away all of his firearms because they understood him to be depressed and unstable.
Hutson said the man's family isn't sure where he got the shotgun. He said that officers found "a lot more" ammunition for the weapon during the raid.