WEST VALLEY CITY A wanted fugitive with a history of violence, who officers believed was armed, was shot and killed outside a dry cleaning store Friday morning by agents from the U.S. Marshal's Office.
Two U.S. marshals opened fire on 30-year-old Robert Lynn Harris after he reportedly disobeyed their orders and appeared to be reaching for a weapon, said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Jim Thompson.
Harris' girlfriend had broken up with him about a week ago and kicked him out of their house, according to Mindy Bottoms, the former girlfriend's mother. Thursday night, the ex-girlfriend put all of Harris' personal belongings on the front porch, but he showed up at the house several times during the night and gave her several threatening phone and text messages, Bottoms said. One message said, "I'm smashing you," she said.
"He made the comment on the phone he was coming to get her," said Marsha Morgan, the woman's grandmother. "She was scared to death he was coming down here to beat her."
About 10:45 a.m. Friday, Harris showed up at Red Hanger Cleaners, 3336 W. 3500 South, where his former girlfriend worked.
From there, the stories of what happened differ between the woman's family and U.S. marshals.
Bottoms said Harris had calmed down and simply wanted to talk.
Thompson said the Marshal's Office had received several calls from people concerned about Harris' threats, including one from Bottoms. But when asked how they knew Harris would be at Red Hanger, Thompson would only say his office received information from an anonymous source that Harris was at the business and possibly armed.
Officers from West Valley Police Department and marshals who were part of the Joint Criminal Apprehension Team went to the dry cleaning business. Two marshals parked their vehicle right behind Harris' truck to prevent him from leaving. Bottoms said Harris was sitting in the passenger seat of her daughter's car so he could install a stereo for her. He got out of the car carrying CDs and wires and was shot multiple times without warning, she said.
The marshals, however, said Harris was trying to evade them and get to his vehicle and was reaching for what appeared to be a weapon in his clothes. Thompson said Friday that a revolver was recovered at the scene. He was unsure of the brand of the gun.
Although Bottoms admitted her daughter was scared to death Harris was going to harm her and that he needed to be arrested, she said neither she nor her daughter wanted to see him killed.
"They didn't tell him to freeze or anything," she said. "I know she's feeling really guilty. ... I didn't want them to kill him. She's going to feel guilty about this forever. I can't believe they shot him."
But Thompson said the marshals did tell Harris he was under arrest but he seemed to ignore them. The entire confrontation, he said, happened "in the blink of an eye."
Two marshals fired an undetermined number of shots, Thompson said. Evidence markers showed at least seven shell casings on the ground outside Harris' truck.
In 2000, Harris was twice charged in federal court with unlawful transport of a firearm. He was sentenced in 2001 to 57 months in federal prison and 36 months supervised release. In November of 2006, his release was revoked and he was sentenced to 12 more months and one day of supervised release.
Harris also had an extensive criminal history in district court, according to court records, including charges of attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, assault by a prisoner, theft, illegal possession of a dangerous weapon and aggravated arson.
On Oct. 1, Harris was found to be in violation of his supervised release and a warrant was issued for his arrest.The marshals who fired at Harris were placed on standard paid administrative leave. An investigation into the shooting was going to be conducted by West Valley police, the U.S. Marshal's Office and the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office.