Father: Suspect in deadly Utah shootout had PTSD

By Paul Foy

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 5 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

OGDEN, Utah — Search warrant in hand, a team of bulletproof vest-wearing officers rapped on the door of a small, red-brick Utah house, identifying themselves as police. When no one responded, authorities say, the officers burst inside.

That's when the gunfire erupted.

When it was over Wednesday night, a 7-year veteran officer was dead and five of his colleagues were wounded, some critically. The suspect, an Army veteran whose estranged father said suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have been self-medicating with marijuana, was injured.

Now, as the city tries to grapple with the outburst of violence and the loss of one of its officers, investigators are trying to determine how the raid as part of a drug investigation could have gone so terribly wrong.

"It's a very, very sad day," an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said Thursday.

A candlelight vigil for the fallen officers is planned for Thursday night at an Ogden amphitheater.

Police declined to reveal details of the shooting besides a general timeline, citing the ongoing investigation.

They would not say, for instance, whether the shootout took place entirely inside the home or spilled out into the yard, how many shots were fired and how many guns were recovered.

There will be several investigations, including one by Ogden police and another outside probe by prosecutors.

Among the questions that authorities will try to answer was whether the officers, in the chaotic moments upon entering the house, may have inadvertently fired on each other.

Police said the warrant was based on information about possible drug activity, but would not say what officers were specifically looking for inside Matthew David Stewart's home, which sits across the street from a Mormon church meeting house.

Stewart, 37, was in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, authorities said. He does not have an attorney yet.

Utah court records show Stewart's criminal history includes only a 2005 conviction for a class B misdemeanor traffic violation — operating a vehicle without insurance. A judge found him guilty after a bench trial and ordered him to pay a $350 fine.

State officials also placed a pair of tax liens on Stewart last August.

Stewart served in the Army from July 1994 to December 1998, spending a year based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and nearly three years stationed in Germany, Army records show.

He held a post as a communications equipment specialist, earning an Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal. Both are given for completing active service, although they don't indicate exceptional acts of valor.

Stewart's father, Michael Stewart, said his son works a night shift at a local Walmart and may have been sleeping when police arrived.

"When they kicked in the door, he probably felt threatened," said Michael Stewart, who has been estranged from his son for more than a year, but keeps track of him through his two other sons.

The elder Stewart said his son suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and may have been treating it with small amounts of pot. He said he believes his son may have been growing the weed himself.

He said he didn't believe his son owned any automatic weapons and that the family is upset by what happened. "This is my son's problem and we're grieving for him and all of the officers," Michael Stewart said. "I'm dead sick about it."

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