One University of Utah student is dead following a shooting Monday night in Red Butte Canyon near the University of Utah.
The suspect turned himself into security at the Salt Lake City Library on Tuesday afternoon, and was taken into police custody and transported to the U’s Department of Public Safety for questioning and processing. He was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on multiple unspecified charges.
“I need to give a big shout out to the citizens and today, a librarian,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown at a 2 p.m. press conference. “Yes, a big shout to the librarians today because a librarian was able to pay attention to what was being put out and recognize Austin and call security, and security, without incident, was able to take this person into custody.”
The victim is ChenWei Guo, a 23-year-old international student who studied computer science at the U. He worked as a peer advisor with International Student and Scholar Services.
“He touched so many of our community — students, faculty, staff,” said Dean of Students Lori McDonald, who was visibly shaken by his death, at a press conference Tuesday morning. “I know he was very active in the community. We are so very deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this beloved son, friend and student.”
Students at the U were advised at 9 p.m. to “shelter in place,” while all on-campus housing and the medical complex at the university were placed on lock down. At around 12:50 a.m., police lifted the advisory for students west of Mario Capecchi Drive. The recommendation was lifted for the rest of campus at about 3 a.m. Administration canceled classes Tuesday out of respect for Guo, U President David Pershing said in a letter to the campus community.
The suspected shooter is 24-year-old Austin Boutain. The white male was described as wearing a coat, jeans and beanie with a tattoo of a cross under his eye.
His wife, Kathleen Boutain, has been taken into custody and booked in the Salt Lake County jail. The couple was on the run and is wanted for a homicide in Golden, Colorado. Officers from the city traveled to Salt Lake City as part of their investigation into that crime.
Police are looking for a forest green pickup truck with Colorado plates 460 DZX, which was stolen from the victim in Colorado.
According to Sgt. Brandon Shearer with the Salt Lake City Police Department, Guo was shot inside of his vehicle near the gate of the canyon after Boutain attempted a carjacking. Brophy said the shooting happened after the suspect was involved in a domestic dispute with his wife.
Another U student, a female who was friends with Guo, was involved in the incident. After the shooting, Boutain tried to force her back up the canyon with him. He shot at her twice and narrowly missed as she fled on foot. Police said she was “physically uninjured but understandably severely traumatized by the events that had occurred.”
The wife was treated for injuries related to the incident after police received a domestic violence call at about 8:30 p.m. She had gone to the Peterson Heritage Center for help, and it later came to light that her husband was armed in the canyon.
At least eight law enforcement agencies and around 200 officers from around the Salt Lake Valley, as well as the FBI, worked to contain the area surrounding Red Butte Canyon. The Utah Highway Patrol sent a helicopter, and law enforcement used a BearCat and thermal technology to search for the shooter. Tuesday morning officers searched the foothills east of Red Butte Garden, first to the north then to the south, accompanied by armored vehicles and two sniper teams as over-watch.
“We are now going through a strong-wall search, where we have officers about 5 meters apart, walking so they can see each other through the brush in the foothills,” Brown said at a 10 a.m. press conference. “That is how thick it is up there.”
The search ended after Boutain turned himself in. Boutain had gotten around the police perimeter the previous night by “low-crawling” through the brush and making his way to downtown homeless shelthers through the Avenues neighborhood. He hid the gun used in the shooting near one of the shelters, but he said it had disappeared when he returned for it. Police believe the gun was stolen during the homicide in Colorado.
Police found a makeshift camp, setup by he and his wife. At the campsite there was a rifle and ammo containers. The couple had previously been staying at Salt Lake City homeless shelters since Oct. 28.
“Let me publicly commend Chief Dale Brophy, the Salt Lake PD, the university’s department of public safety and the local and federal enforcement officers who have responded so quickly to our campus, and who continue their work to help find the suspect in this case,” said Pershing.
U administration has been in contact with Guo’s family, and they have spoken numerous times throughout the night.
“They are very understandably grieving,” said McDonald. “We will work very closely with them to determine what their wishes are for the resolution of his passing.”
Many students at the U are affected by Guo’s death. Counseling services are available through the U’s counseling center, which has opened a space at the Mindfulness Center in the Student Services Building for drop-in support from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for the remainder of the week.
“I did not know him personally, but I have spoken with several of his friends and co-workers over the early morning hours,” said McDonald. “He was described as extraordinarily outgoing, charming, creative, smart and extremely engaged in our community over the year that he has been here.”