Ogden police shooting likely death penalty case

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 10:22 AM

Scott Schwebke

OGDEN — Investigators converged on a cordoned-off Ogden neighborhood Thursday to continue the grim task of investigating the shooting death of a veteran policeman and the wounding of five other officers in a fierce shootout.

The investigators seemed to be focused Thursday morning on collecting evidence from the barren backyard of the home of suspect Matthew David Stewart, 37, of 3268 Jackson Ave.

Click here to see video from the crime scene Wednesday night.

Stewart was wounded in the gun battle Wednesday night when a dozen agents with the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force attempted to serve a warrant at his residence. He sustained non-life threatening injuries and is under guard at Ogden Regional Hospital.

Ogden Assistant Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said during a Thursday morning news conference that Stewart has a “limited criminal history” but did not elaborate. He also did not release any information about a possible motive for the shooting.

Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith told reporters that Stewart likely faces a charge of aggravated murder, which carries the death penalty, and additional charges of attempted aggravated murder.

Jared Francom, a member of the Ogden Police Department since 2005, died early Thursday morning of his wounds.

Other officers wounded are Shawn Grogan, Kasey Burrell and Michael Rounkles, all of the Ogden Police Department; Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, Weber County Sheriff’s Office; and Jason VanderWarf, Roy Police Department.

VanderWarf was treated at Ogden Regional Medical Center and released Thursday.

Hutchinson was in stable condition with multiple gunshot wounds while Grogan, Burrell, Rounkles remained in critical condition Thursday at McKay-Dee Hospital.

Tarwater said the shooting occurred when a dozen strike force officers attempted to execute a "knock" arrest warrant for a narcotics offense at Stewart’s home. Officers knocked on Stewart’s door and when no one answered entered the house and were fired upon, he said.

Authorities declined to say what type of weapon or weapons were used, how many shots were fired and how the suspect was injured.

Tarwater said police had heard that Stewart has a military background, but that had not been confirmed.

Lt. Darin Parke, who heads the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, said it isn’t unusual to deploy as many as a dozen officers to execute a search warrant.

He said officers assigned to the task force are well trained, adding that Francom was one of the most experienced members of the unit.

About 40 officers from various Weber County law enforcement agencies converged on McKay-Dee Hospital and Ogden Regional Hospital in solidarity immediately after the shooting, said Tarwater,

"This is a law enforcement family," he said explaining the shooting has had a deep and profound effect on law officers throughout the area. "The law enforcement community is grieving."

Mayor Mike Caldwell, whose first day in office was Wednesday said the shooting is tragic.

"I can’t imagine a more difficult thing to be put into on your first day on the job," he said at the news conference. "It’s a little overwhelming. There are six families that have been forever changed by last night’s events. We are here to support them."

Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson echoed Tarwater’s comments about the broader effects of the shooting.

"All the strike force agents involved in this tragic incident reacted honorably, with courage, fidelity and valor in the face of significant danger that has claimed the life of a fellow officer," he said. "We train and prepare for deadly force incidents hoping that we will never find ourselves or our fellow officers in deadly peril yet are ever willing and prepared to step up and to serve our fellow citizens and each other."

Thompson also paid tribute to Francom.

"We have lost a brother," he said. "We will grieve this loss knowing that officer Francom laid down his life for his friends and community. He will be sorely missed."

Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham, his voice chocked with emotion, told reporters at the press conference that Francom and the other wounded officers should be honored for their service.

"As I worked and watched these noble officers go about their duties I have been honored to be counted among them," he said.

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