In our opinion: Ogden's awful tragedy

Published: Friday, Jan. 6 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

From left, Erin Francom, widow of Jared Francom, his brothers Travis Francom, Jessica, (Travis' wife) Ben and Gunner take part in a candlelight vigil honoring their husband and brother, Ogden police officer Jared Francom at the Ogden Amphitheater in Ogden Thursday, January 5, 2012. Francom succumbed to his injuries after he and five other officers from the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were shot last night while serving a warrant at a home in Ogden.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

Ogden's interim police chief spoke this week of the "law-enforcement family" that was mourning the death of Agent Jared Francom. And while no one outside that family can fully comprehend the pain and sense of loss being felt this week, it should be noted that all of Ogden, and the entire state of Utah, as well, are part of an extended family that shares in the sorrow for a senseless tragedy and an awful loss.

Law-enforcement officers are the threads that bind the fabric of civilization. More than just investigating crimes, writing citations and making arrests, they make the rule of law an action phrase, rather than just a principle in a civics textbook. They provide a recourse from the minority who would plunder or abuse for their own gain, and they allow peaceful people to prosper and exercise liberties.

An assault on a peace officer is an assault against civilization itself. Beyond even the anguish over the loss of an officer's life, that is what makes the attack on Francom and five of his colleagues Wednesday night so disturbing.

Twelve officers, part of the Weber-Morgan Metro Narcotics Strike Force, entered a home to serve a warrant when the resident inside opened fire. The other five who were struck are hospitalized in conditions that range from serious to critical. They were serving what is known as a "knock and announce warrant," meaning they forcibly entered the home after no one responded to their knock on the door.

The alleged gunman, Matthew David Stewart, was shot as well, although he is expected to recover.

As with all such tragedies, there is pain on both sides. Stewart's parents described him as dealing with mental-illness issues and a drug problem. A court eventually will sort out facts and determine blame, but it is likely no one ever will get a satisfactory answer as to why this happened, or why a seven-year veteran of the department with a wife and two children was taken.

"It's a very, very sad day for all," interim Chief Wayne Tarwater said. Indeed, it is.

All the community can do right now is attempt to deal with the fact that, once again, peace officers have been attacked in the line of duty, and resolve to renew their admiration and support for those who risk their lives daily on behalf of us all. In addition, people should pray for the recovery of those who remain hospitalized.

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