OGDEN -- The soldier police were looking for when they served his desertion warrant on the wrong house was surprised at the weaponry officers displayed when they finally arrested him.
An internal investigation is nearly completed at the Ogden Police Department on six officers' attempt to serve an arrest warrant for Derek Billmire at what turned out to be the home of Eric and Melanie Hill in the 1000 block of East Harrop Street in Ogden.
The Hills contend officers brandished three assault rifles and two shotguns during their 25-minute ordeal, which began at 2 a.m. Dec. 20, terrorizing their two young daughters.
Billmire. in a telephone interview Friday, at his barracks in Fort Carson, Colo., said only two officers had rifles when he was arrested an hour after officers showed up at the Hill home.
Two of the five or six officers he counted on his doorstep carried an M4 assault rifle, the same model he uses as an Army specialist with two tours in Iraq.
"My wife and I asked them if the M4s were really necessary," Billmire said. "I asked them if it was because of the shootings that have happened around the country and they only said 'No, it's just procedure.' "
The incident at the Hill home has spawned a public outcry, including a showing at an Ogden City Council meeting, and demands for policy reviews.
Shouting officers, who believed Eric was Derek, Hill said, yelled out questions as they searched and secured the home. The Hill's 4- and 10-year-old daughters remain traumatized by the sight of their father handcuffed with a gun pointed at him. Hill had answered the front door with a baseball bat in his hand after his 10-year-old woke him about pounding at the door.
Ogden Police Chief Mike Ashment has apologized to the Hills for the mistake, while declining to comment in detail as the internal investigation is under way. Friday he said it should be completed by the middle of next week.
Ashment had initially assigned the internal affairs probe to a lieutenant, but has turned it over to an assistant chief. "These are usually done by lieutenants, but we decided to bump it up to one of the assistant chiefs, given the public scrutiny," he said.
Mayor Mike Caldwell also issued a statement earlier this week: "I have asked that an investigation and review be conducted by an assistant police chief that will focus not only on whether current policies were followed in this case, but also whether our current policies are adequate to meet our dual goals of effective police work and enhanced safety for our citizens and officers."
Assistant Chief Eric Young's investigation is all but complete, Ashment said, except for an interview with the last member of the squad that went to the Hill home and subsequently to Billmire's home in Harrisville. That officer is on a previously scheduled vacation until Tuesday.
Billmire has no qualms with how the police handled him.
He said he wanted to speak out only to offset any perception he was a dangerous, wanted man. "I wasn't being a bad person. I'm not a bad person. I just wanted to be there for my family." He has a 4-1/2 month old child.
He said his "entire chain of command" knew he went AWOL early in November, frustrated at delays in a request for leave to visit his dying father. He said he was surprised the desertion warrant wasn't issued until Dec. 20, saying he expected and was prepared for it much sooner.
Once he was picked up and spent a week in the Weber County Jail, he said the Army sent him a plane ticket back to Fort Carson. The desertion charge was dropped upon his return, he said, but the AWOL episode will likely downgrade his coming honorable discharge expected in the spring.
Billmire said Ogden police were respectful and calm at his arrest.
"I've had to do things similar to what the cops were doing," he said. "If people are respectful when you answer the door, you're going to warm up to them. I didn't answer the door with a bat. I just answered normal like a human being."
Police have to use a show of force in serving a warrant, he said, just like in the military. "The whole thing could have been alleviated if Mr. Hill didn't answer the door with a bat after hearing them identify themselves as police. That automatically puts a threat into them when they see a weapon, like a bat."
But, he said, the police could have done a little more homework. His name is on the mortgage for the home in Harrisville and he has never lived at the home on Harrop Street, he said, once owned by his aunt who sold it to the Hills.