Strike force analyzes shootings for lessons in tactics, training

Jan 13 2012 - 3:01pm

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Police officers and emergency crew near 3268 Jackson Street in Ogden where 6 police officers were shot, including those from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force and the Ogden Police Department, while serving a warrant. The suspect was also shot.  (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
Police officers and emergency crew near 3268 Jackson Street in Ogden where 6 police officers were shot, including those from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force and the Ogden Police Department, while serving a warrant. The suspect was also shot.  (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
National law officer fatalities.
Police officers and emergency crew near 3268 Jackson Street in Ogden where 6 police officers were shot, including those from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force and the Ogden Police Department, while serving a warrant. The suspect was also shot.  (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
Police officers and emergency crew near 3268 Jackson Street in Ogden where 6 police officers were shot, including those from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force and the Ogden Police Department, while serving a warrant. The suspect was also shot.  (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
National law officer fatalities.

OGDEN -- The Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force will re-evaluate its procedures in the wake of last week's raid that resulted in the death of Agent Jared Francom and wounded five other officers, Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson said Thursday.

"We owe it to those involved to learn from it," said Thompson, adding he's unsure if any of the strike force's policies will change.

Francom died from wounds received in a raid around 8:40 p.m. Jan. 4 at the home of 37-year-old Matthew David Stewart, 3268 Jackson Ave.

Stewart remained under police guard Thursday at Ogden Regional Medical Center. Information about his injuries and condition has not been released.

The shootout occurred in what authorities have described as the execution of a knock-announce search warrant.

That type of warrant requires officers to knock, announce their presence and then wait a reasonable amount of time for the occupant to respond before entering.

The Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force had attempted in the past to execute the warrant at Stewart's residence without success, Thompson said.

Strike force agents had no inkling of a potential deadly encounter with Stewart before entering his residence, Thompson said.

"We had no indication that the guy would be a violent problem or that he was even home," Thompson said.

Stewart couldn't be taken into custody in a public place because police had a search warrant for his home and not an arrest warrant, he said.

There are other tactics that police can sometimes use rather than undertaking dangerous high-risk raids, said Pat McCarthy, a former Chicago police officer who operates Street Crimes, a law enforcement training firm.

"Cops love to do search warrants," McCarthy, a former undercover officer and SWAT team member, said in a telephone interview from Chicago on Thursday. "There is no bigger thrill than breaking down the door of a house, not knowing what you will be up against."

There are several things police can do to increase safety, such as executing search warrants between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., when suspects are most likely asleep and less likely to resist, McCarthy said.

Police can also use a ruse to get access to a dwelling so a search can be conducted, said McCarthy.

For example, the delivery of a fake package to a residence may be successful in getting a suspect to answer the door so that police can enter, he added.

Police should also work closely with informants and conduct surveillance to develop solid intelligence beforehand, McCarthy said.

Police deaths during raids are not that common because officers are typically prepared for the possibility of deadly force from suspects, said Harvey Hedden, executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, based in Burlington, Wis. Traffic stops, domestic violence incidents and ambushes are more dangerous, he said.

It's important for police to get back to the basics, so that they aren't complacent during routine calls, Hedden said.

"Awareness is critical to officer survival," he said.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said he plans to seek the death penalty against Stewart, who is under investigation for aggravated murder, eight counts of attempted aggravated murder and cultivation of marijuana.

Francom and four of the wounded officers were part of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, a multi-agency unit that investigates drugs and drug-related crime. Officer Michael Rounkles, who was also wounded, is part of the Ogden Police Department's crime reduction unit.

The strike force is managed by a board of directors comprising Thompson, Morgan County Sheriff Blaine Breshears, and police chiefs from all municipalities in Weber County.

Auction to benefit officers

OGDEN -- A silent auction to benefit the officers injured in last week's shooting and their families will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Outlaw Saloon, 1254 W. 2100 South.

Among the items available for bid are gift certificates, concert tickets, ski season passes and trip packages. The saloon will also donate a portion of the night's sales receipts.

Anyone interested in donating an item or service that can be included in the auction is asked to email outlawsaloon@live.com. Cash donations for the officers will also be accepted.

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