Utah officer killed, 6 others wounded in shootout
Thursday, January 5, 2012
OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Search warrant in hand, a team of bulletproof vest-wearing officers rapped on the door of a small, red-brick Utah house, identifying themselves as police. When no one responded, authorities say, the officers burst inside.
That’s when the gunfire erupted.
When it was over Wednesday night, a 7-year veteran officer was dead, five of his colleagues were wounded, some critically, and the suspect, an Army veteran who lived at the house in a well-kept Ogden neighborhood, was injured.
Now, as the city tries to grapple with the outburst of violence and the loss of one of its officers, investigators are trying to determine how the raid could have gone so terribly wrong.
“It’s a very, very sad day,” an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said Thursday.
Police declined to reveal details of the shooting besides a general timeline, citing the ongoing investigation.
They would not say, for instance, whether the shootout took place entirely inside the home or spilled out into the yard, how many shots were fired and how many guns were recovered.
There will be several investigations, including one by Ogden police and another outside probe by prosecutors.
Among the questions that authorities will try to answer was whether the officers, in the chaotic moments upon entering the house, may have inadvertently fired on each other.
Police said the warrant was based on information about possible drug activity, but would not say what officers were specifically looking for inside Matthew David Stewart’s home, which sits across the street from a Mormon temple.
Stewart, 37, was in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, though it’s unclear if he was shot. He does not have an attorney yet.
Authorities said Stewart has a limited criminal history, though it wasn’t immediately clear what it was.
Stewart 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. Both are given for completing active service, although they don’t indicate exceptional acts of valor.
Army spokesman Mark Edwards said officials don’t release discharge information unless there was court martial discipline.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said it wasn’t yet clear what charges Stewart might face once the shooting investigation concludes. “But it appears right now, with the information we have, that we have an aggravated murder as well as a number of other attempted aggravated murders,” Smith said, choking back tears.
The officer killed, Jared Francom, was with the Ogden police. He is survived by a wife and two children.
In an interview with Salt Lake City’s ABC 4, Erin Francom said her husband “loved his job more than anything” and that he was a great father to their daughters. She said the girls, ages 5 and 3, are having a tough time understanding the loss of their father.
Authorities said the conditions of the officers ranged from serious to critical. They are Ogden officers Shawn Grogan, Kasey Burrell and Michael Rounkles, Weber County sheriff’s Sgt. Nate Hutchinson and Roy officer Jason VanderWarf.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert met with their families and said they seem optimistic about the officers’ recovery.
On Wednesday, witnesses said they heard three quick pops followed by a two- to three-minute pause, then lots of gunfire.
“We came running outside to see what was going on,” Janessa Vanderstappen, who lives nearby, told the Deseret News. “Officers told us to go back in our house.”
Vanderstappen said she went back inside, and minutes later heard yelling coming from the backyard. She said she walked onto the back porch to see officers addressing a person hiding in a nearby shed.
“There’s cops telling him to ‘put your hands up, put your hands up,’” she said.
Outside Stewart’s house on Thursday armed SWAT officers clothed in camouflage remained on guard as police continued their search of the property. The yard was taped off and dotted with numbered evidence markers.
Residents said they were shocked to hear there was any drug activity in the area or a shootout on their street.
“This has always been a quiet neighborhood. We’ve been here for 11 years,” said Andrew Mair, who said his wife hid in the couple’s basement in fear when the gunfire rang out. “I’ve never heard anything crazy going on.”