OGDEN -- Warrants served aggressively on the wrong person are the regrettable and nearly unavoidable fallout of a violent and imperfect world, officials say.
Local law enforcement officials are reluctant to comment directly on the recent arrest warrant served by Ogden police at the wrong house, traumatizing two little girls who witnessed their father handcuffed in his pajamas at 2 a.m.
Police Chief Mike Ashment has apologized for the chaotic scene of six shouting officers wielding weapons while securing the young family's home.
An internal investigation is continuing, Eric and Melanie Hill saying the officers brandished three assault rifles and two shotguns during the 25-minute ordeal on Dec. 20.
Ashment is waiting on the investigation's completion before commenting on the claims but has said preliminary indications point to only one rifle among the six officers.
The military desertion warrant was successfully served on the actual suspect a few hours later in Harrisville. Derek Billmire has already been returned by U.S. Army personnel to Fort Carson, Colo., on the desertion charges, said the public defender for Billmire's brief appearance in 2nd District Court in Ogden.
While apologetic, local officials say whenever the phenomena of a wrong house warrant or raid makes the news around the country, the issue of officer safety has to be raised, even when it's the officers creating the danger.
And they don't see the Dec. 20 incident as fueled by any increased officer angst since the shooting of six officers of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force during a warrant service a year ago.
In ceremonies Friday on the one-year anniversary of that shootout, Ogden's public safety building was renamed for Ogden officer Jared Francom, who died in the melee.
Officials instead point to a larger trend of violence against officers over the past two decades.
Chief Weber County Deputy Sheriff Klint Anderson said two of his officers were treated and released from a local hospital a week ago for injuries suffered during the arrest of a pair of drunks.
"That didn't make the papers," he said.
"Twenty years ago, people would fight with you to get away," said one veteran police administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Now they fight with us to kill us."
While thankfully rare, Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward said, the trauma of warrants served on the innocent may be unavoidable.
Officers, like everyone else, he said, make the best decisions they can on the best information available at the time.
"But no one knows exactly what's on the other side of a door," Heward said.
"It's unfortunate, but unless law enforcement assumes the worst, aren't they leaving themselves open to being injured or killed? It's very unfortunate, but it's the world we live in today."
Heward is the senior prosecutor of the charges against Matthew David Stewart, facing the death penalty in the shootout a year ago that left Francom dead and five other officers wounded while serving a search warrant at Stewart's Ogden home.
There is no set statewide or national protocol or standard for the serving of arrest or search warrants, the officials said. Decisions on manpower and weaponry are the call of the supervisor in each action, they said, with but one firm rule: Officers never serve a warrant alone.
A handful of factors guide such deployments -- officer safety, severity of the alleged crime and, in the case of search warrants, preservation of evidence.
Harrisville Police Lt. Keith Wheelright said OPD contacted his agency for an assist when they arrested Billmire in Harrisville around 3 a.m. Dec. 20, but his officers were involved in a domestic violence call at the time and couldn't respond.
Serving warrants is always high stress, he said.
"You never go alone, obviously," he said. And a warrant on a desertion charge for a soldier would be considered a heightened threat, he added.
"I would take that fairly seriously. Those guys are trained, and you don't know if they'll want to fight."
He wouldn't comment further on the controversy around the Billmire warrant served on the wrong house. "That's up to OPD to decide whether what happened was right or wrong."
But he said public outcry can vary at the news of wrong-home warrants when they surface around the country. "It's driven by how much the media tries to takes advantage of it, to be honest."
The closest Anderson came to commenting on OPD's wrong-house controversy was to echo Wheelright.
"That many officers on a warrant, it's fair to say there's a reason ... a show of force usually precludes the use of force."
Anderson pointed to the recent shootings in Connecticut and elsewhere as examples of the risks officers face on the job.
"There are just all sorts of reminders around the country telling us that we have to be ready to do our best and be at our best," he said, "but I don't know of any movement to arm up and amp up police officers, just a movement to better prepare and do better intel."
Even in a relatively quiet community such as North Ogden, serving warrants represents a risk, said Detective Paul Rhoades, North Ogden police public information officer. "Safety's always an issue. You never have just one officer serve a warrant."
"It would be nice if there weren't people who are waiting to assault or kill officers," Heward said. "But that's not reality."
Details regarding the warrant for Billmire and his arrest in Harrisville were not immediately available.