Murder Charges Filed In Utah Officer's Death

Published January 14, 2012 12:09AM (EST)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The suspect in a deadly shootout with Utah police used a semi-automatic pistol to methodically gun down six officers from a narcotics strike force inside his house, according to charges filed Friday that could bring the death penalty.

Matthew David Stewart, a 37-year-old Army veteran suspected of growing marijuana, told an acquaintance last summer that if police ever raided his Ogden house he would "go out in a blaze of glory and shoot to kill," a Weber County investigator wrote in an affidavit for his arrest.

Prosecutors say Stewart shot and killed Jared Francom of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Task Force during the Jan. 4 raid at Stewart's house in a quiet neighborhood across the street from a Mormon meeting house.

Francom, 30, was shot six times, according to court papers. He was buried Wednesday after a public funeral.

On Friday, prosecutors charged Stewart with capital murder, marijuana cultivation and seven attempted aggravated murder charges. The charges were enhanced by a dangerous weapons count.

Weber County prosecutors also filed notice that they will seek the death penalty if Stewart is convicted.

Stewart's lawyer, Randy Richards, didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

Stewart was cornered in a backyard shed and shot by police, but it wasn't clear Friday if he had been released from a hospital or booked into jail. Prosecutors had said they would wait for doctors to clear Stewart for release before arresting him.

Police say Stewart failed to answer a knock on his door and waited for officers to enter his house before opening fire "from a concealed position at close range with a Beretta 9 mm semi-automatic pistol."

Two of the officers from the narcotics strike force remain hospitalized in fair condition. Three others have been released.

The day after the shooting, police say they retrieved "multiple" pot plants, special lighting and a water system from Stewart's house, which under Utah law is covered by a drug-free zone because of the neighboring church building.

The affidavit doesn't fix Stewart's position when he opened fire, but says police had cleared his basement and the main level before he started firing.

Ogden Officer Shawn Grogan was shot first, in the face, and fell to the floor. As other officers came to Grogan's aid, Stewart continued to fire repeatedly, striking Officer Kasey Burrell at least twice and mortally wounding Francom, according to the arrest warrant.

Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson was shot several times as he tried to help the wounded officers. The next officer to get hit by a bullet was Roy Police Officer Jason VanderWarf, in the hip, according to prosecutors' chronology.

As officers evacuated the house, Stewart moved to the front door and kept shooting. He then fled the house through a rear bedroom window and hid in a backyard shed, where he was shot and taken into custody.

By Salon Staff

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