On anniversary of Ogden shootout, vigil held for Stewart
Ogden • The windows of Matthew David Stewart's home are still covered with white-washed wooden boards an ever-present reminder of the fatal shootout that erupted there on Jan. 4, 2012.
One year later, a small group of Stewart's family and friends stood outside of the boarded-up house, candles in hand, in an effort to remember the man who has been in police custody since agents with the Weber Morgan Strike Force served a search warrant at Stewart's home, which ended in chaotic gunfire that killed one police officer, and injured five others. Stewart was also injured.
"We planned it being family and friends gathering together and having a moment of healing," Erna Stewart, Matthew Stewart's sister-in-law, said Friday evening.
Erna Stewart described her brother-in-law as caring, compassionate and quiet. Not the type of man who would hurt anyone, much less kill a law enforcement officer.
He was defending himself, she said.
Stewart is accused of opening fire on Weber Morgan Strike Force agents who were serving a knock-and-announce warrant at his Ogden home. The man was being investigated for marijuana cultivation, police say.
But Stewart has told The Salt Lake Tribune he thought people were breaking into his home to rob and kill him that night, and his "instincts kicked in."
About 20 people tightly huddled around the curb of Stewart's home Friday and observed a candlelit moment of silence during the chilly evening. One candle was placed on Stewart's front doorstep.
Erna Stewart said Friday that her family visits her brother-in-law at least weekly while he is in jail. She said his spirits are sometimes low, but other times he is happy to see his family. He reads the newspaper, she said, and talks about music and YouTube videos, as they had always done in the past.
"He just wants to hear about everything," Erna Stewart said. "He just wants to be right there with us."
Over the past year, Stewart's family has held several rallies and events calling for an end to police violence and home-invasion-style raids. Erna Stewart has been at the forefront of many of these efforts, a position she said is not difficult for her to take on because she believes in the cause.
"He was with us every day," she said. "It's not difficult for me, because I know Matt."
Stewart, 38, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder in Agent Jared Francom's death, seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly trying to kill other officers, and one second-degree felony count related to alleged marijuana cultivation.
No trial date has been set.