OGDEN -- Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force officers serving a "knock and announce" search warrant on Matthew David Stewart's Ogden home Jan. 4, 2012, were clearly identifiable and, in spite of it, were fired on multiple times by Stewart, resulting in one officer's death and a half-dozen officers being wounded, says Weber County Attorney Dee Smith.
Smith said he is now free to talk about the incident as a result of Stewart having been found dead in his jail cell early Friday morning and there no longer being need for a trial.
Stewart was discovered by a jailer at 12:50 a.m. hanging from a bedsheet in his cell in the Weber County Jail, Smith said at a Friday news conference. About one hour prior, Stewart was observed alive by officers who make routine checks on the inmates, Dee said.
The death has been turned over to an outside agency for further investigation and to a separate attorney's office for review.
Stewart, 39, scheduled to go to trial next April, was possibly facing the death penalty, charged with one count of aggravated murder for the death of police officer Jared Francom, and seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder.
Stewart also faced a second-degree felony charge of production of a controlled substance after police seized 16 marijuana plants from his home after the shooting.
At the news conference, Smith rebutted claims posted by the Stewart family earlier in the day on Facebook, that Stewart mistakenly took police serving the search warrant as intruders.
"After the illegal assault on (Stewart's) home by a gang of thugs and his inhumane treatment at the Weber County Correctional Institute, along with the recent loss of an unfair and unjust ruling by the court, (Stewart) gave up hope of his ever getting justice in his case," a post on Matthew Stewart's Facebook page read Friday.
On Wednesday, a 2nd District Court judge denied a challenge by Stewart's defense team that the warrant obtained by police to search Stewart's home was done so illegally.
Stewart attorney Bernie Allen, of Ogden, said he was surprised to learn Stewart had apparently committed suicide and that the defense team still had plenty of things they wanted a jury to hear.
But while family and Stewart's defense team lamented what will now never be presented at trial, law enforcement authorities painted a different picture of the events that unfolded that tragic evening.
Stewart fired 31 rounds from a 9 mm caliber weapon, with 17 of those rounds striking officers who had entered the home. Seven rounds struck Francom, Smith said.
Stewart continued to fire on officers as he fled the home out of a bathroom window, Smith said. He referred to the officers as heroic.
Stewart was also injured in the gun battle.
"First of all, I would like to express my condolences to the Stewart family, his friends, and his supporters. A death, no matter who it is or how it occurs, is sad and hard for those closest to them," said Francom's widow, Erin, who made the post on a Facebook page dedicated to her husband's memory.
"Second, I would like to thank everyone that has reached out to me in such a short period of time. The concern and support that has been given to me, our children, and the rest of our family is greatly appreciated. I believe I am still in a state of shock and experiencing a wide range of emotions."
Smith said while cultivating marijuana is a felony offense, authorities had two options when it came to Stewart -- either ignore the information they had received or investigate the matter.
It was in their investigation that authorities were able to present a probable cause to the court in obtaining the knock and announce search warrant to enter Stewart's home.
Police clearly identified themselves, giving Stewart ample time to respond to the door; upon getting no response, police entered the home, clearing it room by room until they arrived at the last room in the house, where they took on gunfire, Smith said.
Multiple officers were shot while trying to pull one another out of Stewart's line of fire, Smith said, with a total of six officers being wounded.
Every bullet that struck an officer was fired from Stewart's gun, based on ballistic reports, Smith said.
Michael Stewart, Stewart's father, told the Associated Press he doesn't believe foul play was involved in his son's death and it may have been a suicide.
He said his son was despondent over a judge's recent refusal to hold a hearing on what the family believes was an illegally obtained search warrant. He accused jail officials of making his son's life miserable and leaving his mental illness untreated.
But authorities Friday said Stewart was treated humanely while in custody, receiving all rights as a prisoner in the jail, including access to mental health assistance.
"Stewart, as with all inmates, has been afforded all available constitutional and ethical rights as an inmate in the Weber County Correctional Facility. He has been afforded full access to all legal, housing, and living assistance and benefits within the framework of policy and process within the Weber County Sheriff's Office," said Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson.
This included access to mental health services, he said.
"(Stewart) chose not to meet with mental health professionals. Stewart was referred ... for mental health assistance approximately every two weeks as a matter of routine. His last referral that he accepted was February of 2012," Thompson said.
"Suicides within correctional facilities are a microcosm of society. Typically multiple times each day, enforcement patrol deputies out on the street respond to threatened suicides in our communities. It is a community problem that affects all of us on a daily basis that deserves increased attention both inside and outside of our correctional facilities," he said.
"Stewart has been treated in a humane and professional way with trust and integrity. All appropriate policy, protocol and process have been followed in accordance with providing for a safe and secure environment for all inmates within the facility.
"He has been housed in as safe and secure manner as is possible within the facility; visual checks of inmates are, and were made, every hour, 24 hours a day," Thompson said.
"Staff are trained and experienced in observation of inmates for suicidal tendencies, thoughts, behavior and actions. In most cases, we are successful in preventing someone from taking their own life."
Following the Friday news conference, authorities declined questions.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.