If it came down to protecting my family, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don't think I would hesitate. —Coleby Clawson, neighbor
SPRINGVILLE — A Springville man Thursday shot and killed an intruder who police say woke up a sleeping couple in their bedroom and demanded they take him to an ATM for cash.
The intruder was identified as Armando Martinez Jr., 31, of Provo. Police said Martinez first took the time to make a snack and change his clothes before waking and threatening the homeowners.
Officers were called to 763 S. 475 East about 2:50 a.m. Upon arrival, they found Martinez dead in the bedroom of the home, said Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron.
Martinez had walked through the neighborhood, checking as many as 20 homes for unlocked doors, Caron said. He entered the house where the shooting occurred through a sliding back door. The door was locked with a child lock, but Martinez apparently disabled it by pulling hard on the door.
Once inside the home, police said, Martinez found some clothes that had been left folded on the couch. He changed out of his wet clothes and into the homeowner's clothing. He also made himself a tortilla and ham wrap in the kitchen.
"He ate most of it and put what he didn't eat back in the fridge," Caron said. "From there, he went upstairs and started the whole thing."
Martinez entered the master bedroom and threatened the couple sleeping there, saying he had a gun. He demanded that they retrieve their wallets and keys and drive him to an ATM, according to the lieutenant.
The homeowner walked into a closet under the guise of getting ready to leave, Caron said. Instead, he took a 9 mm handgun from the closet and shot Martinez, striking him once in the chest. The homeowner and his wife were uninjured.
Martinez never actually produced a weapon, and police reported that while he claimed to have stolen a gun, none was found at the crime scene.
Court documents reveal an extensive criminal history for Martinez, including multiple jail sentences. On Feb 9, Martinez was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading guilty to attempted damage to a jail, but was given credit for time served and released and placed on probation by 4th District Judge James Taylor.
Martinez also pleaded guilty in separate 2008 cases of attempted aggravated assault and retail theft. Court records also show a series of lesser charges including criminal mischief and theft by receiving stolen property.
Investigators are treating the incident as a case of self-defense, but Caron said police are conducting a full investigation that will be treated just like any other. Still, the incident appears straightforward and no charges are expected.
"I don't see any reason to think it's anything but (self-defense)," Caron said. "They don't know this guy. This guy came into the house, threatened them, claimed he had a gun and, to protect his family, (the homeowner) took that action."
There were three children — 3-year-old twin boys and an infant girl — in the home at the time. Police said the family is handling the situation well.
"It's a pretty traumatic experience to have someone break into your home and then threaten you," Caron said. "Then, to actually take the man's life in your bedroom is pretty upsetting. All things considered, they were hanging in there pretty well."
Neighbor Bridger Frampton said he spoke to the homeowner and said he sounded rattled and was still in shock. He was one of a number of neighbors who said they would have done the same thing if they had found themselves in a similar situation.
"That's a big decision, when it comes between your family and that," Frampton said. "I think he made the right one."
Another neighbor, Coleby Clawson, said the incident has impacted everyone in the neighborhood, especially knowing that the burglar had tried to enter a number of houses Thursday morning. There were footprints leading straight to Clawson's back door and he, too, said he would have taken the same actions.
"If it came down to protecting my family, I would do it in a heartbeat," said Clawson, a former BYU linebacker. "I don't think I would hesitate."
He said he felt bad for the trauma his neighbor is most likely going through in the wake of the shooting. He said he serves with the man in the elder's quorum presidency of their local LDS ward.
"I think he is an excellent dad and a good husband, just trying to protect his family," Clawson said.
Police said Martinez fits the description of a man believed to have burglarized another home in the neighborhood last week.
"In that case he went into the home, stole a gun and apparently a cellphone," Caron said. "He told these homeowners (Thursday) that he had stolen a gun before, so we're pretty sure it's the same guy."
There were shoe tracks in the snow around the neighborhood Thursday, and police were trying to document the route before additional snow covered them up.
The incident was mentioned Thursday morning at the Utah Legislature, where the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that clarifies a person is justified in defending their home and family against criminal activity and may not be held civilly liable for damage or injury to perpetrators.
A local attorney and authority on self-defense law, Mitch Vilos, said the homeowner involved in this incident was protected under Utah's current self-defense laws on two fronts. First, because he used force to stop the commission of a forcible felony and, second, because he was under threat of injury in his home.
"All you have to have is a reasonable belief that you're about to be assaulted," Vilos said. "You don’t have to see a weapon."
Vilos, who authored "Self Defense Laws of all 50 States," said Utah's laws are among the strongest in the country, second only to Florida.
"Utah's self-defense law stacks up as one of the best," Vilos said. "It has a presumption that if someone breaks or sneaks into your home unlawfully, you're presumed to be acting reasonably if you use deadly force."
And Utah is one of few states that extend the definition of one's home to the edge of their property. This is different from other states, Vilos said, which limit self-defense protections to the immediate area of the home.
The law currently allows Utahns to injure or kill someone if they believe they or someone else are in imminent danger of "unlawful force" or death. The self-defense statute also allows for the use of deadly force to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Contributing: Marjorie Cortez