Ogden cop-shooting suspect says he feared for his life
Ogden • The man accused of killing a police officer and wounding five others said he thought people were breaking into his home to "rob and kill me."
Matthew David Stewart, 37, said he never heard officers identify themselves or announce they were at his home to serve a search warrant. Stewart, in an interview Friday at the Weber County Jail, said his alarm clock woke him, then he heard a crash that sounded like glass breaking.
"Some parts I remember vividly," Stewart said of the Jan. 4 shootout. "Other parts it was like I was running on instinct.
"When you're convinced that you are getting robbed and most likely killed by a group of armed men, your instincts kick in."
Stewart has been charged with aggravated murder for the death of Ogden police Officer Jared Francom, who was a member of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force. He also has been charged with eight other felony counts. Weber County Attorney Dee Smith has filed notice that he intends to seek the death penalty.
Stewart spoke with a Tribune reporter Friday during one of his two weekly 25-minute visits he's allowed via a video teleconference system at the jail. Stewart declined to answer some questions, including whether he was growing marijuana in his home on Jackson Avenue, as the strike force was investigating. Stewart did say he believes marijuana should be legal.
Stewart said he "had no idea" he was under investigation by the strike force. He worked a night shift at the Walmart in Riverdale and was asleep as the strike force arrived between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
The day after the shooting, the strike force commander, Darrin Parke, said officers repeatedly knocked on Stewart's door and called inside the house and it was only after those tries they broke inside.
Although Stewart said he didn't hear officers announce themselves, he didn't answer whether he had some indication police officers had entered his home.
"I didn't know," he said. "All I knew for sure is they were there to rob and kill me."
Court documents claim Stewart was in a hiding spot as the strike force was searching the house to see if anyone was inside. Stewart then emerged from the hiding spot, court documents say, and began firing a 9 mm Beretta, first shooting Officer Shawn Grogan in the face.
Francom was shot six times, according to the court papers.
Also injured by gunfire were Weber County sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson; Roy police Officer James VanderWarf; Ogden police Officer Michael Rounkles; and Ogden police Officer Kasey Burrell. All the injured have been released from hospitals.
Stewart served in the U.S. Army. He saw no combat but said the training was meant to be "like the real thing." On Friday, he said he also worked nine years as armed security for the Internal Revenue Service.
Stewart said he has not been diagnosed with any disorders as a result of his service, though on Friday he said he felt the Army and security stints changed him. He did not elaborate.
When asked whether he applied his military and security training the night of the shooting, Stewart replied: "It makes sense."
As for Francom and the injured officers, Stewart said: "I'm totally devastated that anybody had to suffer over any of this. This never should have happened."
Stewart thinks two bullets struck him during the shootout, but he isn't sure. He said he can't tell what are entrance and exit wounds and he had difficulty getting answers from his doctors and nurses at the hospital where he remained until Monday.
One bullet appears to have struck Stewart in his right hip then entered his abdomen, he said. Doctors had to remove portions of his intestines. He's using a colostomy bag.
"I'm still having a lot of trouble dealing with the colostomy," Stewart said. "It's a big psychological blow, but it's also real difficult in here."
Another bullet struck Stewart in his left leg and damaged nerves there. Stewart said he can't stand in one place long without "blinding pain" in the leg.
Since a few days after the shooting, Stewart has been represented by attorney Randall Richards, but Stewart said Friday he will be seeking new counsel. Stewart had an initial appearance Wednesday in 2nd District Court in Ogden via a video link from the county jail. A status hearing for Stewart was set for Feb. 7.
Near the end of his visit, Stewart implied more facts of what happened Jan. 4 will emerge.
"I've always been a big fan of the truth," Stewart said. "It's tough for me to stay silent on some issues."