Last week, Mark Joseph Pyle sent six red roses to his wife. ". . . I'm trying hard. I love you," the card said.
Saturday, those roses stood in a vase - a few feet away from a bullet hole that scarred a refrigerator and reminded 12 friends who had gathered at Pyle's home of the death of their friend. Two more holes from SWAT officers' service weapons pierced a wall a few feet from 8-year-old Britney Pyle's room.The dozen friends, gathered to talk with reporters, expressed the same thought: Mark Pyle would not have fired a .45-caliber pistol Thursday night if he had known the men charging into his home were police officers.
Pyle's shots hit one officer in the chest, but body armor stopped the bullet. Another pierced an officer's right thigh. Both were treated at Pioneer Valley Hospital early Friday and released.
"I don't believe he heard them saying `Police! Police,' " said Danny Richards, who had known Pyle for eight years. "If someone crashed through my front window . . . I would think they were after my family."
Richards wondered why police served the warrant when Pyle's wife and two children were in the home.
"There were a hundred different ways they could have taken him without making it dangerous for his family," he said.
A bullet fired by police at Pyle ricocheted off a wall and into another. Behind the first wall, Jourdan Pyle, 3, was lying in her bed. An explosion from a police-thrown stun grenade shattered a hole in the couple's bedroom floor and wall - 3 feet across the hall from the two children's bedrooms.
West Valley Police Chief Dennis Nordfelt said none of that would have been necessary had Pyle not shot at the officers.
"Mark Pyle had a choice. He left us no alternative," he said.
Police feared "that if a daytime entry were attempted, officers would be exposed as well as passers-by. This is a residential area. The number of people placed in jeopardy will be reduced if the warrant is served at night," a search warrant affidavit stated.
Third Circuit Court Judge William Thorne authorized the warrant based on information about the M-16s and other weapons believed to be in the house, the release said.
The SWAT officers and federal agents recovered an ounce of marijuana and other narcotics. They also found more that 9,000 rounds of handgun, shotgun and high-powered rifle ammunition. A 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buck shot was found under Pyle's bed and a .22-caliber rifle was also removed from the home.
In the aftermath of that night, Pyle's friends talked about his love of sports and the dozens of trophies that adorned a family mantlepiece. They recalled basketball, football, and baseball games the 32-year-old played with them.
"He was a good man regardless of what's been written and said so far. He loved sports and he loved his family," Richards said.
West Valley police say several incidents and information from confidential sources led them to use a "no knock" warrant to enter Mark Pyle's home Thursday night. According to a press release:
- A confidential informant contacted authorities about large quantities of weapons and narcotics being sold at Pyle's home.
- One couple told police their son had a major addiction to cocaine and marijuana and Pyle was named as the source of the drugs.
- A local businessman reported to detectives that one of his employees was stealing ski equipment and giving the goods to Pyle in exchange for narcotics.
- A unidentified source called federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to report that Pyle had acquired two fully automatic M-16 rifles.
- The same source reported that Pyle and associates were cultivating marijuana in the southern Utah area.
- Based on information from sources, a West Valley undercover detective negotiated with Pyle to buy five to 10 pounds of marijuana. No transaction was completed, police reported.
- The day of the shooting, police followed and stopped a "known associate of Mark Pyle for outstanding warrants. Marijuana was recovered from the associate's vehicle" and the man was arrested, a press release said.
- Investigators told a judge in a search warrant affidavit that Pyle's home was outfitted with an attack dog and motion detectors that turned on outside lights.