Father of accused Ogden cop shooter questions police tactics
Ogden • Saddened and confused, Michael and Sonja Stewart, the parents of the man Ogden authorities suspect in the shooting of six police officers, say it's hard to believe their son could shoot anyone.
One of the officers, Jared Francom, was killed during the Wednesday night drug-related raid. Four other officers remained hospitalized Friday two of them in critical condition.
The Stewarts say they are grieving for the officers and their families and pray for them.
But the Stewarts also wonder why authorities executed a search warrant at their son's residence in the manner in which they did.
They have many questions. But so far, no answers.
The police "have a job to do," Michael Stewart said. " But they didn't do it right this time."
They describe Matthew David Stewart, 37, as a very shy person who suffered from depression and anxiety.
"He was a loner. It was hard for him to socialize," his father said Friday. "He was just way shy."
After four years in the military, Matthew returned to Ogden and got a job as a security officer for the IRS. But he began having problems with depression and anxiety. He didn't want to use prescription drugs, his father said, and chose to self-medicate with marijuana that he grew.
He eventually left the IRS and got a warehouse job at Walmart, working graveyard shift. About two months ago, he broke up with his girlfriend.
"He was a good guy," his father said. "He worked hard. He served his country. He tried to live his life his way. He didn't think he was hurting anybody."
The Stewarts say they know very little about the Wednesday shootout at their son's Ogden residence at 3268 Jackson Ave.
"We're devastated by this whole thing," Michael Stewart said.
The Stewarts have not been allowed to see their son at an undisclosed hospital. And they don't know what happened when the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force entered the house with a search warrant.
Michael Stewart said his son kept a handgun for protection. But he said that his son's shotgun had been in his parents' possession for years and he didn't have any automatic weapons.
Michael and Sonja Stewart say they can't understand why the strike force would execute a search warrant the way that it did, knocking down the door and rushing into the residence.
If Matthew Stewart was sleeping or listening to music in his back room, there is a good chance they would not have heard police announce their arrival.
"If they had done some research, why not arrest him at Walmart?" Michael Stewart said.
"I'm hoping the citizens of this state can look at what's happened here and rethink the drug war," he added. "Are we losing the drug war?"
Ogden Interim Police Chief Wayne Tarwater did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
The unfortunate events of Wednesday night have cost at least one life and shattered others. And Matthew Stewart may be soon facing the death penalty, his father noted.
"My son is going to have to face a judge here on earth. And when he's finished here, he will face his maker."
Of the five officers wounded during the shootout, Kasey Burrell, 33, and Michael Rounkles, 29, remain in critical condition in McKay-Dee's ICU unit on Friday. Burrell, hit in the head and abdomen, was in a medically induced coma. Rounkles' injuries have not been publicly detailed.
McKay-Dee Hospital spokesman Chris Dallin confirmed that both Ogden police Officer Shawn Grogan and Weber County sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, who had been listed in critical and serious condition on Thursday, respectively, had been upgraded. Both men were expected to make full recoveries.
Grogan, 37, had suffered a gunshot wound to the face during the Wednesday night raid, the bullet passing through one cheek and then another.
Weber County Undersheriff Kevin McCleod said Friday night that Hutchinson had been upgraded to stable condition and may be going home from the hospital in a few days. Doctors completed a successful surgery on his arm Friday.
"He is doing well," McCleod said saying Hutchinson's attitude is optimistic. "He wanted everyone to know he appreciates the public's support."
Also wounded was Roy police Officer Jason VanderWarf, 37, was released Thursday after treatment at Ogden Regional Medical Center.
The sixth member of the strike force hit by gunfire was Ogden police Officer Jared Francom, a 30-year-old father of two young girls who died early Thursday morning of his wounds.
Ogden police Lt. Danielle Croyle said a dozen officers involved in the raid had been placed on administrative leave, as is standard following a shooting episode.
Matthew Stewart, who reportedly was recovering from non-life-threatening injuries, could face aggravated murder as well as multiple attempted murder charges, according to Weber County Attorney Dee Smith. Aggravated murder conviction carries a potential death penalty.
Stewart allegedly opened fire when a total of 12 officers arrived to serve a "knock-and-announce" search warrant on Stewart's one-story, red brick home. Police say no one answered the knock and officers came under heavy fire when they entered the home. Police have not released details about the firearms Stewart had, but the family of one of the wounded officers was told the suspect was armed with multiple guns.
Friday evening, police were still processing evidence at the suspect's home, where three crime scene investigation vans and a dozen officers were on hand. On Thursday, police left the home with large PVC pipes with holes in them and florescent lighting systems, which are typical components of an indoor marijuana growing operation.
Stewart, the oldest of five children, served as an Army multichannel transmission systems operator in North Carolina and Germany for four years. He was awarded the Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal before leaving the military in 1998, an Army spokesman said. A check of Utah court records shows Stewart has only a traffic ticket for driving without insurance.
A day of mourning for Ogden police
The Ogden police department will take the day off Sunday, as a day of mourning for Officer Jared Francom, who died following a Wednesday night drug-related raid at a home.
A secretary for the mayor's office confirmed the plan and said other police jurisdictions will monitor Ogden during the 24-hour period.