One officer, Agent Jared Francom, was killed while serving a warrant at the home of Matthew David Stewart. Five other officers from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force are currently being treated for their injuries.
The following is the transcript from the press conference.
I’m Chief Tarwater with the Ogden City Police Department. I will read a prepared statement here and then we will go into questions. On January 4, 2012 at 8:40pm, officers from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were attempting to serve a search warrant at 3268 Jackson Avenue in Ogden. During the service of the warrant, six police officers as well as one suspect were shot and were taken to local hospitals.
The Ogden City Police Department regretfully announces that Agent Jared Francom succumbed to his injuries as a result of this incident. Agent Francom has served the citizens of Ogden with honor for seven years. He is survived by his wife and two young children. Five police officers from multiple agencies remain hospitalized with serious to critical injuries. More information on their condition will be released as it becomes available.
The suspect remains at a local hospital under guard with non-life threatening injuries. The suspect’s name is Matthew David Stewart. His date of birth is 5/21/1974. Mr. Stewart has a limited criminal history.
Let me just cover our bases as far as our investigation. What happens in an incident like this is the Ogden City Police Department immediately starts an internal shooting review board. That review board consists of two lieutenants and a sergeant. At the same point in time, the multi-jurisdictional homicide task force that is headed under the Weber County Prosecutor’s office starts an independent investigation of their own and both of those are in progress as we speak.
Again, the Ogden City Police Department has had terrific support, as you can see here, today… Last evening, from the Ogden Regional Health Center to McKay Dee Hospital all of the police agencies in Weber County, police agencies outside of Weber County… At one point at Ogden Regional at least 40 officers from at least seven different agencies were at the hospital.
This is a family, this is a law enforcement family and the law enforcement community is in mourning and my condolences, our condolences go out, not only to the Ogden city community and to the officers and their families, but basically to the whole state and all of law enforcement in the state of Utah. With that, I believe Mayor Caldwell is going to make a brief statement.
I can’t imagine a more difficult thing to be put into on your first day at a new job. It’s overwhelming and I’m here mostly to support and give the reassurance to these families and the community that we will do everything in our power that we can to take good care of them. We are here to support them. I talked to the governor today and we will have the state flag and the United States flag flown at half mast in remembrance of them at Ogden City. We hope you will keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
There’s a lot we don’t know. We are working through these things and commit to that process but right now all of our thoughts and prayers are with those officers that are still being worked on. With that, I appreciate the law enforcement that are here and share their concern. Here is Sheriff Thompson from the Weber County Sheriff’s department.
I’m Sheriff Terry Thompson from the Weber County Sheriff’s office. I have a brief statement I would like to read for you concerning last night’s incident. Sergeant Nate Hutchinson from the Weber County Sheriff’s department was struck by gunfire during the execution of a search warrant by the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force operation.
Sergeant Hutchinson and all of the strike force agents involved in this tragic incident performed honorable with courage, fidelity, and valor in the face of significant danger that has claimed the life of a fellow officer. All faced an unexpected danger that we know, as law enforcement, is ever present. We train and prepare for deadly force incidents, hoping that we never find ourselves or our fellow officers in deadly peril, yet are ever willing and prepared to step up to serve and protect our citizens and each other.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Agent Francom and his family and to all the officers and family involved in this tragic incident. Law enforcement is a family. We have lost and brother and will grieve this loss knowing that officer Francom laid down his life for his friends and community. He will be sorely missed. Thank you to all of our heroes in the public safety family who have stepped up this day to the task of caring for our wounded warriors. Your service to our fellow officers and the fallen will not be forgotten. All are in our thoughts and prayers.
I want to reiterate what Chief Tarwater has said, we are a family and the cooperation of all agencies has been phenomenal. I want to thank everyone involved in handling this incident last night again for their heroic efforts in assisting in a very difficult circumstance for the law enforcement family and certainly to the community and certainly to the families of the law enforcement officers involved as well. I want to thank each of you for your contribution in helping us find a resolution to this incident. Thank you.
Let me just echo the comments made by Chief Tarwater and Sheriff Thompson. Roy City police officer Jason Vanderworf, assigned to the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, was involved in the incident of last night. To all of those in the community that would share with us the great responsibility honoring the dignity and sacrifice of officer Francom and all of those officers that serve us…
As I worked and watched these noble officers as they went about their duties, I was honored to be counted among them and would ask that the community statewide recognize the sacrifice that officers make for them each day and the noble actions that they take and the sacrifices that their families make for their communities that goes unnoticed and unrecognized in many circumstances. As we go forward, we will continue, today our police agencies are continuing to serve you with honor. Thank you.
The other Ogden officers involved are Agents Shawn Grogan. He has been an officer for 15 years. Agent Casey Burrell is an eight year veteran and officer Michael Runkles has five years of service. With that, we will open it up to questions you might have.
At this time I cannot really speak to that. As I said a few minutes ago, there is an internal investigation and an external independent investigation by the homicide task force. I have not had access to the scene and basically anyone not affiliated with that investigation has not had access to the scene. The scene is still under control. A search warrant is waiting to be served and until that is completed, I would not have any information to speak to you on that.
Can you speak to the condition of the officers?
All of the officers that are hospitalized are currently at McKay Dee Hospital. They are receiving terrific care and I would refer you to the McKay Dee Hospital liaison for that information.
Can you tell us if the officers knew they were going into a dangerous situation or --.
This was a -- I can't speak to their specific frame of mind, but I can tell you what the search warrant was. This was a knock and announce search where officers announce their presence and wait for the individuals to come to the door. If no one answers, under certain circumstances we enter the home. That's exactly what happened. The officers went to the home with the intent to announce their presence and did so and once they entered the home, there was no answer, no immediate response. They forced entry through the door and when they entered, the officers came under fire.
Was this suspect inside the house then?
I would have to assume, but i really can't speak to that.
The one that shot the officers?
What was the suspect wanted for?
I didn't say he was wanted for anything. What he -- they were serving a search warrant on his residence based on probable cause. There was drug activity.
Do you know what kind of weapon or weapons the suspect had and was he barricaded by the time your officers entered?
I cannot speak to that information.
Were there any other people inside the home involved in this situation other than the suspect and the officers?
I don't believe so but i can't tell you for sure.
You mentioned he had a limited criminal history. Can you go into details of what his criminal history was?
I don't know that information with me at the moment but it's not -- I believe it's just minor misdemeanors.
Was there any word that Michael Stewart was an ex-military person maybe? Do you know if that's true?
I don't know if that's true or not. I heard the same thing but I don't know if that's true.
Did he own the home at Jackson Avenue?
I believe he's registered as the owner. I don't know that personally.
What kind of narcotics were they expecting to find? What does the search warrant say?
Do you want to --.
Can't discuss that?
Was there anything recovered? It may be beside the point but --.
They haven't completed the search warrant yet. I believe there were going to serve the search warrant about 8:00 this morning so that will likely take hours, so I can't give you an answer.
Can you tell us if the officers were wearing protective gear and if so, what?
I can tell you it's the policy of the Ogden city police department that the officers wear vests and I know it's the policy, correct me if I’m wrong, but the officers wear vests. As far as I know, the officers were wearing vests and protective gear.
[ inaudible ].
There was at least a dozen officers.
Is that common to send that many officers?
[ inaudible ].
I'm Lieutenant Darren Parks, commander of the narcotic strike force. The question was was it common to send that many officers?
Say that again.
The question was, was it common to send that many officers. The answer is yes. When searching a residence you have a lot of work ahead of you and need help. Primarily when you have that many officers on a standard basis for officer safety initially and assistance and searching the location.
What kind of circumstances made this situation unique, then?
Without getting into details as part of the investigation, there was not a great deal that set this investigation apart from other similar types of investigation other than the outcome.
Can you tell us in history have we seen anything like this or similar to it?
Not to this scale...
You said it was drug relate. Drug trafficking or --.
We can't go into that because of the investigation through the county attorney's office at this time but it was a drug related investigation.
Do we have a drug problem in Ogden?
We have a drug problem in America.
Can you tell us approximately where the officers were shot?
I'm not going to go into specific medical conditions or injuries out of respect for their privacy.
As leader of the team can you talk about the training these officers had? These are officers who go through extra for this situation.
Absolutely. We go through training several times a year on search warrant execution. We train as a team, as a unit. We train with other specialty units within our area from the various police departments so when we need additional assistance, everybody is trained on this. That is not just a one-time occurrence. It occurs at least on a quarterly basis every year. And in addition to that, we also have our own live fire firearms training we conduct. These guys are highly trained.
Do you know what the suspect's weapon was?
I don't have that information at this time.
Are you allowed to speak about the [ inaudible ].
That's part of the county attorney's criminal investigation.
[ inaudible ].
I don't have that information. We're going to have to wait for the investigation.
Can you tell us about your -- [ inaudible ] can you talk about that?
He was one of the more experienced agents in our unit. And he will be sorely missed. But he was involved in training younger agents. Showing them how to do things appropriately and that's about it.
Is there -- you may or may not know this at this point but a reason he suffered injuries -- was he the first one in or was he targeted specifically?
If i could step in and answer that. Dee Smith, county attorney. I have asked these individuals not to discuss some of the details. There are a lot of details that are coming up out that are being uncovered. There are a lot of qualified, confident investigators working on this case and it's important to preserve the integrity of the investigation. We don't get into specifics. It's not that we don't want to share what we know but now is not the appropriate time. For that reason, we can't answer everything that you would like to know and we would like to answer.
What kind of charges did you expect at this point?
Right now we have this investigation going. We have an officer who is deceased and -- I’d like to comment on that, but until we have the investigation complete, I’m not going to say exactly what he's facing but it appears with the information we have, we have an aggravated murder as well as a number of attempted aggravated murders. Giving the very good investigators working the case right now, once that investigation is complete, we will file the appropriate charges that the law allows.
The Francom family, have they designated a family spokesperson?
I don't know the answer to that.
I would one last thing so you know what the narcotics strike force is, they're a multi-jurisdictional agency serving all of Weber-Morgan counties comprised of officers from a variety of agencies within Weber County.
Some more questions. Other than Mr. Stewart was there anyone else in the home?
That question has been asked and I just cannot speak to that. At this point I think we're done. Thank you very much.
So -- and I would like to end with condolences to all of the families, including the suspect's family. It's a very, very sad day for all of us.