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Police detail what went wrong in fatal shootout with Matthew David Stewart

Internal review says officers made mistakes before and during the fatal drug raid on Matthew David Stewart’s home.

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Cross-fire » The potential for deadly crossfire — after Stewart left the home and holed up inside a shed — was created by the "lack of control and clear direction" at the scene, the number of officers arriving at the scene, and the number of bullets fired, the report says.

Forty-six rounds were fired by responding police officers outside of the home, with 32 of those fired toward the shed after Stewart climbed out a back window and retreated to his aluminum shed, the report said. These shots "creat[ed] a potential for friendly fire injuries," but an arriving supervisor soon gave orders that remedied the concern, the report said. No officers were wounded outside of the home, and none of the responding officers was disciplined, Ashment said.

At a glance

Shooting report released after open-records request

Ogden’s review of the Jan. 4, 2012, drug raid that resulted in one officer being killed and five others wounded was released to The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this week in response to an open-records request.

The Tribune requested internal police reviews in May 2013, shortly after Matthew David Stewart, who was charged with shooting the officers, committed suicide at the Weber County jail and his criminal case was closed. The police department denied the request, citing privacy issues.

The Tribune appealed the decision to Ogden’s records review board — which also denied the request.

In February of this year, The Tribune filed a lawsuit in 2nd District Court seeking the report.

The release of the report — actually an eight-page summary of the internal reviews— was the result of out-of-court negotiations between the two parties after the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit will now be dismissed.

“Ogden and The Tribune worked together to resolve this records dispute in a way that acknowledged the city’s privacy concerns but also enhanced public understanding of this tragic event,” said Michael O’Brien, The Tribune’s attorney. “This approach saved a lot of taxpayer dollars that might otherwise have been consumed in a lawsuit.”

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The report said many of the bullets fired toward the shed went through it and struck Stewart’s home and a neighboring home. One bullet went through the window of a neighboring home and lodged into a bedroom wall.

Investigation » The report also criticized the thoroughness of the investigation before the search warrant was ever executed. For instance, Stewart’s ex-girlfriend, Stacy Wilson, who tipped police to the marijuana grow, had ample information about the layout of Stewart’s home and whether he had violent tendencies, but she had not returned agent’s calls for follow-up information after the initial tip, according to the report.

Even though the agents didn’t know much about the home or who was inside it, Ashment said he believes the raid — which resulted in the seizure of 16 marijuana plants — should have gone forward.

"They had enough probable cause for a judge to issue a warrant," Ashment said. "You don’t always have the benefit of every piece of information. But it’s not uncommon in this profession for us to have to take risk. And in this case, that was the information they had and that’s what they acted on."

VanderWarf testified during Stewart’s preliminary hearing that during a "knock-and-talk" attempt he looked through a window on the south door of Stewart’s home and saw items indicative of a marijuana grow, including evidence of humidifiers, bright lights and extension cords.

Policy changes » Twelve recommendations for policy changes were listed in the shooting review report, which Ashment said have been implemented. They include that officers receive more training, that pre-surveillance is required before serving a search warrant and that a supervisor who is not part of the entry team is on-scene.

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It also became a requirement that all officers must wear "full entry gear" when entering a home during search warrant service, and that supervisors must do a gear check before entry.

Ashment said the policy changes have helped remedy issues of conflicting policies between police agencies that serve on the strike force, and also helped make officers safer. Francom’s father, Jade Francom, complimented Ogden for investigating the shooting and instituting changes. He said the only person he blames for the death of his 30-year-old son, the father of two children, is Stewart.

"I love [the strike force officers] to death and it upsets me we’ve got everyone in the state playing armchair quarterback," Jade Francom said Wednesday.

The father also pointed out that Stewart’s girlfriend did not tell police until after the shooting that Stewart said he would fire at police if they entered his home. He said knowing that could have produced "a totally different outcome."

Erna Stewart, Matthew Stewart’s sister-in-law, said Wednesday that she felt the policy changes were "good," but not enough.

"I want to see a full revamp of how they police in our community," she said, adding that her family is opposed to police using "dynamic entry" to go into homes while serving search warrants.

The sister-in-law said she felt the most egregious error made by police was failing to do a thorough background check on Matthew Stewart — including learning about his habits and schedule.

"They took it too lightly," she said. "You are going into someone’s house. People have guns. ... Had a team been fully trained, knew how to handle the situation, maybe Matthew would still be here. Maybe Jared would still be here."

Matthew Stewart was charged with capital murder for allegedly killing Francom and seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly trying to kill other officers.

He also was charged with one second-degree felony count related to alleged marijuana cultivation.

Stewart, 39, was awaiting trial in May 2013, when he hanged himself in his Weber County jail cell.

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