SPRINGVILLE — A homeowner fatally shot a would-be robber who entered his house in Springville early Thursday morning. The intruder apparently stopped for a snack and changed clothes before going upstairs to threaten the home's residents.
Investigators have identified the intruder as Armando Martinez Jr., 31. They believe drugs or alcohol was a factor, but they will have to wait for autopsy results to confirm that.
Springville police responded to a call of a home invasion robbery at 2:48 a.m. in the area of 800 South and 475 East. When officers arrived they found Martinez had been fatally shot in the bedroom.
Lt. Dave Caron with the Springville Police Department said Martinez entered the home through a back sliding glass door. The door was locked with a child lock, but Martinez apparently disabled it by pulling hard on the door.
Once inside, Martinez took off clothes that had become wet while traipsing through the snow and change into some of the resident's clothes, which were folded on the couch in the living room. Caron said Martinez then went to the kitchen, made a tortilla and ham wrap, ate some of it and returned the uneaten portion to the refrigerator before going upstairs.
Martinez then entered the master bedroom, told the homeowner and his wife that he had a gun, and ordered them to get keys to drive him to an ATM. Under the guise of getting ready to leave, the homeowner walked into a closet, got his .9-mm gun and shot Martinez , striking him once in the chest, Caron said.
I don't see any reason to think it's anything but (self-defense). 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.
–- Dave Caron
Investigators say it appears that prior to entering this home, Martinez had walked through the neighborhood, checking at least 20 homes and several cars for unlocked doors. There are no reports of anything missing or any other homes or cars being broken into. Police are currently trying to document the route before the tracks melt.
Caron said Martinez matches the general description of a man wanted in connection with a similar incident last week.
"In that case he went into the home, stole a gun and apparently a cellphone," Caron said. "He told these homeowners tonight that he had stolen a gun before, so we're pretty sure it's the same guy."
Caron said neither the gun nor cellphone from the previous robbery was recovered at the scene of Thursday's shooting. In fact, while the suspect claimed to have had a gun Thursday morning, none was found.
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.
"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. None of the family was injured, and 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.
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
"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.
The incident was mentioned Thursday morning in the Utah Legislature where the Utah 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.
Contributing: Sam Penrod