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Matthew Stewart will stand trial in slaying of Ogden police officer

Published November 2, 2012 12:55 pm

Court • Ogden killing suspect vowed to "go out shooting," ex-girlfriend says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • "Just chaos." "Blood all over the floor."

"Gunshot fire ... people falling and yelling."

Nine Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force officials relived the night of Jan. 4, while testifying during a three-day preliminary hearing about serving a routine knock-and-announce search warrant, only to be caught up in a gun battle that left one agent dead and five others injured.

At the end of the hearing Friday, the alleged gunman, Matthew David Stewart, was ordered to stand trial for allegedly killing 30-year-old Ogden police Officer Jared Francom.

Stewart, 38, is charged in 2nd District Court with aggravated murder for Francom's death.

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He also is charged with 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.

Judge Noel Hyde decided there was enough evidence to order Stewart to stand trial on all nine counts.

An arraignment is set for Wednesday, when Stewart is expected to enter pleas to the charges.

Though Stewart told a Weber County Attorney's Office investigator that he thought that burglars — not police officers — had broken into his home, prosecutors claim Stewart knew exactly who he was shooting at that night.

"This was an ambush," said Deputy Weber County Attorney Christopher Shaw in his closing statement. "That's what it was. It was an ambush, and he took every opportunity in those confined spaces to cut these officers down unmercifully."

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty in connection with Francom's death. Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said Friday after the hearing that they do not intend to extend a plea deal of any sort to Stewart.

Shaw emphasized in his closing statement that not only was the nature of the events chaotic, it all took place in a very small space. The entire footprint of Stewart's home could fit within the front half of the courtroom, and the 6-foot, 9-inch-wide hallway from where Stewart was firing made the officers an easy target, he said.

"It's a shooting range where, essentially, he can't miss," Shaw said.

Stewart's attorney, Randall Richards, countered Shaw's allegations, claiming his client was confused by the chaos of the men breaking into his home, and may not have been able to discern the yells of, "Police. Search warrant!"

"Everyone wishes this hadn't occurred," Richards said. "To say, however, this is an ambush by Mr. Stewart is just not looking at it with an accurate eye."

Investigators became aware of a possible indoor marijuana cultivation at Stewart's home after Stacy Wilson, Stewart's ex-girlfriend, called the "Tip-a-Cop" line, which eventually led to a search warrant being issued.

Wilson testified Friday that Stewart often talked to her about disliking the government.

"[Stewart] told me that if the police ever came to his house he would go out shooting. He would not go out alive," Wilson testified.

Wilson said that Stewart thought "the government and the police officers were all corrupt. He was very against the government. He didn't like the IRS, he didn't like police officers at all ... that they were just power hungry and we lived in a police state."

On cross-examination by Richards, Wilson said she "could not recall" if she told investigators about Stewart's anti-government sentiments or his comment about shooting police if they came into his home.

When asked if she bore any grudge against Stewart, Wilson answered, "It was very amicable for several months."

She said she began dating Stewart in April 2010, and that they broke up in the spring of 2011.

Agents testified that they went to Stewart's home at around 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 4 and announced themselves before breaking through the door and entering. The agents testified they were all wearing some sort of police identifier, whether it was a jacket with the word "police" written in bold, a bulletproof vest with "police" printed on it, or a fleece vest with police insignia embroidered on the chest.

Though most of the agents were wearing bulletproof vests that night, it remains unclear if Francom had one on.

Sarah Gilchrist, with Weber County Metro CSI, was tasked with logging Francom's clothing for evidence. She said Francom was not wearing a vest when he arrived at the hospital.

Smith declined to comment about the matter.

Officer Shawn Grogan testified earlier in the week that when he stood in the hallway of the home, he saw an arm and a gun coming around the bedroom door. The shooter said nothing before he began firing, one of the first shots striking Grogan in the left cheek. Grogan said the shot resulted in the loss of teeth, a severed tongue and pieces of jaw being blown out.

This shot began a gun battle that would not only injure the agents, but also Stewart.

Much of Friday's testimony was based on the forensic investigation following the shooting.

Paul Rimmasch, a Weber Metro CSI investigator, detailed the complex crime scene that was processed in the aftermath of the shootout.

Rimmasch testified that 17 bullet casings from Stewart's 9 mm gun were found in the kitchen, three in the hallway, one in the bathroom and two in a bedroom. But Rimmasch said no 9 mm casings were found in the front doorway, where officers had testified they saw the silhouette of someone who stood and shot at them in the street. The police officers all carried .40-caliber Glocks, but attorneys did not question Rimmasch about any .40-caliber casings found at the scene.

Rimmasch testified that on the blood-spattered kitchen floor, what appeared to be bare footprints were visible. All of the officers who previously testified said they were wearing shoes at the time.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Bernard Allen, Rimmasch said CSI investigators worked to identify each smear of blood in the house, but there were some difficulties because of how complex the crime scene was.

"There was so much blood everywhere," he said.

Justin Bechaver, a senior forensics scientist with the Utah Bureau of Forensics Services, testified Friday that he analyzed 10 fired bullets and four bullet fragments — including those recovered from Francom's lung, back, pelvis, spine and liver, from Sgt. Nathan Hutchinson's hip and from Officer Michael Rounkle's arm — and all were fired from Stewart's gun.

Layton City police Sgt. Juan Moreno, who headed the search of Stewart's basement after the shooting, testified Thursday that 16 marijuana plants were found growing in PVC pipes in Stewart's basement. Also, nearly three pounds of packaged marijuana was found in the basement.

Earlier Friday, police officers and others gathered outside the courthouse in support of the officers involved in a fatal shootout.

The police supporters issued a statement saying that "those testifying are reliving the worst day of their lives, and we want them to know there are many people that care for them."

jmiller@sltrib.com Twitter: @jm_miller