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Ogden shooting suspect planned to 'go out in blaze of glory,' prosecutors say

Interviews, formal charges reveal new details

OGDEN — Last summer, Matthew David Stewart told a friend that if police officers ever tried to raid his home-grown marijuana operation, he'd "go out in a blaze of glory and shoot to kill."

That's according to investigators who detailed the actions of the Ogden man charged Friday with capital murder for the shooting death of Ogden police officer Jared Francom. The Weber County Attorney's Office also filed notice that it intends to seek the death penalty if Stewart is convicted.

In addition to the murder charge, Stewart, 37, was charged in 2nd District Court with seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, and manufacturing a controlled substance, a charge connected to the suspected marijuana operation that brought officers to the house last week.

Questions remain about how six trained members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were taken by surprise, leading to the fatal shooting of one officer and gunshot wounds to five others in a warrant action similar to those completed dozens of times by these same officers. Newly released court documents and interviews with neighbors and law enforcement officials paint a more detailed picture of a chaotic tragedy in the normally tranquil Ogden neighborhood on Jan. 4.

Stewart, armed with a Beretta .9mm handgun, was relentless in firing on officers. He continued to shoot officers after they were down, firing on officers as they tried to get their wounded brothers out of the house, and then following the officers even after they had left the house, shooting at them from his front door into the street, according to a police affidavit filed Friday.

An internal investigation is being conducted by two lieutenants and a sergeant from the Ogden Police Department. An external review will be conducted by the county attorney's Homicide Task Force, a group that reviews all officer-involved shootings.

When asked whether he believes any mistakes were made by police that night, interim Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said, "That's why we have a shooting review board. I can't answer those questions now."

3268 Jackson Avenue

Jackson Avenue on the city's east side was quiet earlier this week as winter cold kept residents indoors.

It's a striking contrast from just 10 days ago when the barrage of gunfire shocked neighbors who watched in horror as wounded police officers were dragged or carried across their yards by other officers trying to get their fallen comrades to safety.

At 8:40 that night at least 12 officers and deputies arrived at the house to serve a search warrant after learning of a possible marijuana growing operation. The officers only had a search warrant that night, not an arrest warrant.

Police had been here before. But Stewart wasn't answering. On this night the team's "knock and announce" warrant allowed them to enter the house if there was no response.

Outside of a couple of traffic infractions, court records show Stewart has no criminal history in Utah. Investigators said they had confirmed that Stewart was growing marijuana in his home. But they did not have any information that there were guns inside.

"If they were expecting to find weapons, it would have been a different warrant and a different approach," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said.

Sources said the strike team was split into two groups, but law enforcement officials would not comment on the team's tactics. A police affidavit states the officers knocked on the side door on the south side of the house after loudly announcing several times, "Police, search warrant." When no one answered, the officers entered the home and cleared the basement and the main floor, continuing to announce their presence with no response as they went through the house.

Stewart surprised the group and started shooting, the affidavit states.

Stewart opened fire "from a concealed position" with a Beretta 9mm semi-automatic pistol, hitting officers Jared Francom, Shawn Grogan and Kasey Burrell at close range, the affidavit states.

Grogan was struck in the face and fell to the floor. Officer Derek Draper returned fire as other officers came to assist them.

"Matthew David Stewart fired repeatedly at those agents, striking agent Kasey Burrell at least twice and mortally wounding agent Jared Francom who was struck six times," the arrest warrant states.

Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson was shot "several times" as he tried to help his fallen fellow officers. Jason VanderWarf was shot in the hip.

Stewart then "advanced on the officers as they were trying to evacuate the residence and continued firing at the officers as they moved away from the house toward Jackson Avenue," the affidavit states.

Ogden police officer Michael Rounkles was shot twice after he arrived as backup and entered the house to help the wounded officers.

Even after the officers had left the house, prosecutors said Stewart went to the door and continued firing "into the street and front yard at the already wounded agents and fellow agents who were trying to evacuate them."

Eyewitness accounts

An Ogden woman was one of the few people in the area standing outside when the gunfire erupted about 8:45 p.m.

"It was a male voice," she recalled. "They said it very clearly and very loud. They said, 'Put the gun down. Put the gun down.' The second time they said it, they were more forceful."

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she was attending an event at an LDS meetinghouse directly across the street from Stewart's house that night. The street was already lit up with lights from police vehicles when she stepped outside to walk to her truck in the parking lot.

"When I first came out of the building, I heard sirens. When I walked to my truck ... that's when I noticed the lights. That's when the gunshots came," said the woman. "The only police officers I saw were the ones all in black. They had those long guns in front of them, walking towards the house."

After a pause, she heard a second round of gunfire — this time the shots in more rapid succession. After running back into the church, she heard a third round of gunshots.

A neighbor who lives two homes away on the corner of the block said she watched as an injured officer lay on the ground just outside of her front door with two other officers attending to him. She then watched as a police vehicle drove onto her lawn, creating a shield between Stewart's house and the injured officer. The wounded man was then dragged across the lawn to a waiting vehicle to receive more attention, she said.

The woman said she later saw a second injured officer being carried over the shoulder of another.

The morning after the shooting, crime scene investigators started going through Stewart's house. They placed markers identifying the bullet holes and the shell casings that covered Jackson Avenue. Vehicles parked across the street in the church parking lot were also hit during the melee.

Pieces of shattered glass were swept in a pile underneath the front door of Stewart's house. In the wood front door and the screen door, there are nine bullet holes visible from the outside, each of them marked with evidence tags.

A small metal storage shed sits in the backyard. It is riddled with bullet holes.

After Stewart allegedly fired at retreating and wounded officers from his front door, police returned fire, causing him to retreat. Investigators said Stewart escaped the house through a northeast bedroom window and then ran into the small shed.

Stewart continued to fire at officers in his backyard, firing but missing Ogden police officer Tyler Crouch.

Stewart was shot several times, but police have not confirmed the number of hits. He remained in Ogden Regional Medical Center Friday recovering from injuries.

There are 13 more evidence markers signifying bullet holes along the wood fence that separates Stewart's property from the home immediately to the south and in the brick and aluminum siding of a neighbor's house. Five of those markers are on the house itself, peppered on all parts of the structure, including one near the roof and one in the glass window.

Everyone near the gunfire who spoke to the Deseret News said they were shaken. They did not suspect any illegal activity in the house. And each day the bullet holes are a reminder of what occurred here. Some neighborhood parents said their children are receiving counseling.

"We were all very surprised. We did not suspect a thing," said another woman who lives close to Stewart's house and also spoke on condition of anonymity. "We were so surprised. We never saw anything."

There was no frequent short-term traffic in front of the house, as is typical with drug houses. There was not the distinctive skunk-like smell of marijuana. One woman described Stewart as a "quiet, nice guy" and said his home was not the neighborhood party house.

The aftermath

A memorial service for Francom, 30, drew officers from around the country and thousands of others in a show of support for the officer, his wife and two young daughters. VanderWarf, who was shot in the hip, was treated for his injuries that night at Ogden Regional Medical Center and was later released.

Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, who was shot several times, was treated at McKay-Dee Hospital Center and has since been released. Grogan, who was struck in the face, was released from the hospital just prior to Francom's funeral on Wednesday. Grogan has been with the Ogden Police Department for 14 years.

Ogden police officers Burrell and Rounkles — who were both shot twice — were the most seriously injured. Burrell, a seven-year veteran of the force, and Rounkles, a four-year member of the department, both remained hospitalized Friday in fair condition.

As crime scene investigators continued to comb through the house days after the tragic shooting, they came across what was described by Smith as a "suspicious device" in a closet in the house. Because of "its appearance and other components located nearby," a local bomb squad was called and detonated the device inside the home.

Although the two homes immediately to the north and south were evacuated as a precaution, other residents — already shaken by the shootout a couple of days earlier — said they received another unexpected jolt when they heard the explosion.

Michael Stewart told the Deseret News his son was an Army vet who suffers from depression and other mental problems and used marijuana only for self-medication.

Matthew Stewart, 37, served in the Army from July 1994 to December 1998, spending a year based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and nearly three years stationed in Germany, Army records show. He held a post as a communications equipment specialist, earning an Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal.

He worked for his father's private investigator business, Interstate Research and Recovery, Inc, also known as Interstate Detective Agency, from about 2002-2004, according to business records. He also worked as a security guard for the IRS before working overnights as a stocker at Walmart off Riverdale Road. Stewart had been working at Walmart for the past three years, according to the company.

Michael Stewart said he had not had contact with his son for many years leading up to the shooting because their relationship was strained.

Friday Stewart remained under guard at the hospital when charges were filed. Once he is released he will be booked into jail. Stewart's attorney, Randy Richards, said Friday his client was still in the intensive care unit.

"I've seen him. He's able to talk, but that would be the extent of it. He's still in a hospital bed," Richards said.

He would not talk about his client's injuries and did not know how much longer he might be hospitalized.

Richards said Stewart is not allowed to have any visitors other than his attorney. He also would not say anything about his client's case or possible defense. Richards did not know if any kind of psychological tests had ever been conducted on Stewart.

Last year the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force — consisting of essentially the same people involved in the incident on Jackson Avenue — served 111 search warrants, seized 34 pounds of methamphetamine, 6,600 marijuana plants and 124 illegally possessed firearms.

The Ogden Police Department and Weber County Attorney's Office say that until both internal and external investigations are completed, they will not discuss certain aspects of the investigations.

"It's been an amazingly emotional week for everyone involved," Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said.


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