Army Ranger Sentenced for Brutal Murder of Security Guard

A U.S. Army Ranger, Patrick Philip Byrne, 29, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the brutal murder of a security guard in Tacoma, Washington. The incident occurred on July 18, 2021, when Byrne, who was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, attempted to enter a building where the victim, Denise Smith, 41, was working.

Smith had recently started her job as a security guard at an office building in downtown Tacoma, which previously housed Russell Investments and is now home to the Division II Court of Appeals and other businesses. On the night of the incident, Byrne had been out drinking with friends and was involved in a bar fight. He mistakenly believed that one of the individuals from the altercation had entered the building where Smith was working.

Surveillance footage revealed that Smith tried to stop Byrne from entering the closed building, but he forced his way in. When Smith attempted to restrain him, Byrne violently attacked her, throwing her to the ground and repeatedly punching her. He also used a set of keys to stab her in an apparent attempt to gouge her eyes out. Despite Smith’s attempts to escape, Byrne continued his assault.

The attack lasted for a total of 10 minutes, with Byrne choking Smith for the final two minutes. After the assault, Byrne shattered a window with a chair and jumped from a landing, causing a brain injury. He was found screaming for help and was taken to the hospital, where he falsely claimed to have been stabbed and sexually assaulted.

Smith was found unconscious by a coworker the following morning. She was pronounced dead at the scene, her face unrecognizable from the brutal assault. It was only her third or fourth day on the job.

During his sentencing, Byrne expressed remorse for his actions, stating that he wished he had never gone out that night. His attorney argued that Byrne’s history of head injuries, including a “blast concussion” and a hard fall during a parachute jump, may have contributed to his lack of judgment.

Smith’s father, a U.S. veteran, wrote a letter to the judge expressing his grief and outrage over his daughter’s murder. He described Byrne’s actions as “brutal, savage, harsh, cruel, unnecessary and worthless,” and called it “downright cold-blooded murder.”