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Suspect in police shooting says he feared for life

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man accused of fatally shooting a police officer and wounding five others during an Ogden drug raid last month says he feared for his life because he thought people were breaking into his home to rob and kill him.

Matthew Stewart told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/zMxrig) that he never heard the drug strike force members identify themselves or announce they were at his home to serve a search warrant the night of Jan. 4.

Stewart, in an interview Friday at the Weber County Jail, said he was asleep when he heard his alarm clock and then a noise that sounded like glass breaking. A shootout between the suspect and officers followed a short time later.

“Some parts I remember vividly. Other parts it was like I was running on instinct,” he said. “When you’re convinced that you are getting robbed and most likely killed by a group of armed men, your instincts kick in.”

Stewart, 37, has been charged with aggravated murder in the death of Ogden officer Jared Francom and eight other felony counts. Weber County Attorney Dee Smith has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

Five other officers were shot and injured, some critically, but have since been released from hospitals.

“I’m totally devastated that anybody had to suffer over any of this. This never should have happened,” Stewart told the Tribune.

Police have said officers repeatedly knocked on the door and called inside Stewart’s house before they broke inside. He was in a hiding spot as officers searched the house, and began firing after he emerged into the open, according to court documents.

Stewart said he had no idea he was under investigation by the strike force. While he declined to say whether he was growing marijuana in his home, he did say he believes marijuana should be legal.

Stewart said he saw no combat while he served with the Army, but that the training was meant to be “like the real thing.” He said he also worked nine years as armed security for the Internal Revenue Service.

Stewart said while he has not been diagnosed with any disorders as a result of his service, he thought his Army and security stints changed him. He did not elaborate.

Stewart, who’s seeking new counsel to replace attorney Randall Richards, thinks he was struck twice during the shootout. Doctors had to remove portions of his intestines, and he now is using a colostomy bag.

“I’m still having a lot of trouble dealing with the colostomy,” he said. “It’s a big psychological blow, but it’s also real difficult in here.”

Stewart said he also was struck in the leg and can’t stand in one place long without “blinding pain” in the leg.

Near the end of the interview, he suggested more facts of what happened Jan. 4 would emerge.

“I’ve always been a big fan of the truth,” Stewart said. “It’s tough for me to stay silent on some issues.”

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