Lead detective gives his account of Utah police shootout
A new report gives more details about the intense gun battle earlier this year that killed one police officer and wounded five more at a house in Ogden.
The report from Roy police says Agent Jared Francom, who died in the shootout, and another officer fell on top of one another near the back door "in a futile attempt to escape."
Other officers from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were falling, too, some while returning fire at the suspect, Matthew David Stewart.
The report is written from the view of Jason VanderWarf, a Roy police officer assigned to the strike force who was the lead investigator into Stewart's alleged marijuana growing. Roy police conducted a review to determine whether VanderWarf was within department policy when he fired two shots at Stewart. He was, concluded Roy's deputy police chief, who wrote the report after the review.
Roy police Chief Greg Whinham on Tuesday said that while the report reviews only VanderWarf's actions that night it shows police followed procedure.
"You start reading the documents ... you're going to see officers were acting very heroic and actually trying to rescue and render aid while taking fire," Whinham said.
Stewart's father, Michael Stewart, on Tuesday said the report still doesn't address whether his son knew it was police officers entering his house. He pointed out that strike force members had beards and long or shaggy hair and didn't look like police.
"He never would have intentionally done that to a police officer," Michael Stewart said. "I don't care what anybody says."
Stewart, in an interview with The Tribune in February, said he never heard the strike force announce themselves. The Roy police report said VanderWarf "repeatedly knocked on the south door at" Stewart's home at 3268 Jackson Ave., "while loudly announcing his presence and authority to enter the residence stating, 'Police, Search Warrant' multiple times." Another officer did the same, the report says.
When no one answered, strike force members went inside. Besides VanderWarf and Francom, Ogden officers Shawn Grogan, Kasey Burrell and Derek Draper entered, as did Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson.
The report indicates VanderWarf was in the basement as other officers were on the main floor making sure no one was home. When Stewart emerged from a hiding spot and started shooting at officers on the main floor, according to the report, Vanderwarf ran upstairs "in time to see Agent Grogan come stumbling out from a hallway with a gunshot wound to his face, spitting out blood."
Moments after Grogan was shot, other officers began to return fire. VanderWarf saw Burrell "drop to the floor" with a gunshot wound and Francom back away from Stewart and say that he also had been shot, according to the report.
Then VanderWarf felt the impact of a bullet hitting his right hip. He stumbled backwards and fell down the stairs, landing in the basement.
The report says VanderWarf could still hear gunfire on the main floor as he lay at the bottom of the stairs.
"After assessing that he was bloody but ambulatory, he ran back up the stairs only to see Agents Francom and Burrell stacked on top of one another on the floor by the back door in a futile attempt to escape," the report says.
VanderWarf went to Francom and Burrell, but the report says Stewart fired at VanderWarf again and he had to take cover. VanderWarf saw Hutchinson fall, presumably from a gunshot wound. Hutchinson was still able to fire his shotgun at Stewart, the report says.
VanderWarf and Draper started dragging injured officers out of the house through the front door, to the driveway that runs perpendicular to the house on its south side and toward the street. Stewart ran to front door and fired at them, the report alleges.
That's when VanderWarf fired. He was standing in the driveway between the house and the street, a map shows. His two shots missed Stewart. Both bullets pierced the front door, went inside the house and were later found in the east wall of the front room.
Ogden patrol officer Michael Rounkles responded to distress calls and ran inside the house to help wounded officers. Stewart shot him as he entered, the report and court documents say.
Stewart was wounded in the shootout, too, and surrendered a short time later as an army of police surrounded him. Of the strike force members listed in the report, only Draper escaped injury.
Among the wounded, VanderWarf was the least injured. The shot to the hip was a flesh wound. He was discharged from Ogden Regional Medical Center a few hours after the shooting. Burrell was the last officer to go home from the hospital on Jan. 29.
About the report
The Tribune obtained the shooting review from Roy police through a records request. Ogden police have denied an identical request for its review of the shootout, citing the possibility of harming Stewart's criminal trial.