'It's a very, very sad day;' 1 officer killed, 5 wounded in Ogden shootout
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
OGDEN — An emotional Ogden interim Police Chief Wayne Tarwater summed up the feelings of police officers and the community Thursday:
"It's a very, very sad day for all," he said, fighting back tears.
Law enforcers across the state were in mourning Thursday following the news that one of six officers from the Weber-Morgan Metro Narcotics Strike Force shot while serving a search warrant Wednesday night had died.
Agent Jared Francom, who had been with the Ogden Police Department for seven years, succumbed to his injuries and died at Ogden Regional Medical Center early Thursday. He is survived by a wife and two young children.
Strike Force Commander Lt. Darin Parke called Francom an experienced agent who trained other people in the unit.
During an emotional press conference Thursday at the Ogden Police Department, police and city leaders talked about how the law enforcement community had lost a family member.
"This is a family. This is a law enforcement family. The law enforcement community is mourning," Tarwater said.
Francom and other members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were attempting to serve a warrant about 8:40 p.m. at 3268 Jackson Ave. when a gun battle erupted.
Six officers and the alleged gunman were shot. The conditions of the five other injured officers range from serious to critical, according to the Ogden Police Department.
Those injured and hospitalized were:
• Ogden police officer Shawn Grogan
• Ogden police officer Kasey Burrell
• Ogden police officer Michael Rounkles
• Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson
• Roy police officer Jason Vanderwarf
• The alleged gunman, Matthew David Stewart, 37, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, according to police, and remained hospitalized Thursday under guard.
Grogan, Burrell and Rounkles were in critical condition Thursday at McKay-Dee Hospital, said hospital spokesman Chris Dallin. Hutchinson was upgraded to stable condition. Vanderwarf was treated at ORMC and was later released.
At least 12 strike force members were serving a "knock and announce warrant," meaning they first knocked on the door to announce their presence and then entered if no one responded.
"They forced entry onto the door and when they entered, the officers came under fire," Tarwater said.
"There was not a great deal that set this investigation apart from other similar types of investigations other than the outcome," Parke said.
Bulletproof vests are common for officers to wear while serving search warrants. It is assumed the officers were wearing them Wednesday night, but investigators would not confirm that Thursday.
Dallin declined to release any details about the nature of the officers' injuries, saying he had not been authorized by family members to go into details. "As you can imagine, these families have had a rough night," he said.
But according to a law enforcement source, Grogan was shot in the face through the cheek; Burrell was shot twice, once in the stomach, and his face was hit with fragments; Rounkles was shot in the leg and the bullet was still lodged inside; Hutchinson was shot four times, twice to his vest, once to his arm and once through his hip; and Vanderwarf was shot in the hip.
"We've never had this many officers come in at the same time," Dallin said, adding that all available critical care staff responded to the hospital to assist.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith instructed investigators not to discuss details about the case pending an internal and external investigation being conducted by the Weber County Sheriff's Office. Officers could not answer questions about whether the gunman was barricaded, what kind of weapons he had or whether Francom was first inside the home when police entered.
When asked about the potential charges the gunman might be facing, Smith became choked up, and said his office would be filing the appropriate charges as the law allows.
"We have an officer who is deceased. ... Until we have the investigation completed, I'm not going to say exactly what he's facing," he said. "But we have an aggravated murder as well as a number of attempted aggravated murders."
"We will grieve this loss, knowing officer Francom laid down his life for his friends and his community," said Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson.
"As the chief who hired each of these officers over the last 16 years and has worked with them on a daily basis, this is a very sad day of my life," added former Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner. "These were wonderful men who have given their all and they rose their right hand to God and said that they would support and defend the Constitution and they were doing that for the safety of our community last night."
Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham asked everyone in Utah to remember the sacrifices law enforcers everywhere make every day as well as the sacrifices made by their families that go unrecognized.
At McKay-Dee Hospital Center Wednesday night, between 40 and 70 law enforcers from across northern Utah arrived to offer support to the families of the officers involved.
Wednesday was also the first full day on the job for new Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell. He said he was with some of the officers' families when a doctor came in to deliver updated news. He called the experience "crushing."
"This is a one of a kind, one in a billion event that happened to be in our community," he said. "It's just terrible circumstances. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."
Caldwell said grief counselors had been made available to officers since Wednesday night as well as other support as needed.
Dozens of markers could be seen in the street, the front yard where the shootout happened and in the grass on the church property across the street from the crime scene.
Witnesses said they heard three quick pops followed by a two- to three-minute pause, then more gunfire.
"I was sitting in the front room watching TV, heard three pops. My fiancée asked if they were fireworks. I said, 'No, those are gunshots,'" said resident Clayton Payne. "I ran out here to see what was going on and I was escorted back to my house by the cops. They said, ‘Get in your house. Get down.'"
Stewart was reportedly arrested in a nearby shed, but officers would not address details about that on Thursday.
Jerri Johnson lives two homes away from Stewart's house. She said based on the number of gunshots she heard Wednesday night, she initially thought more than one person was firing at officers.
"The number of shots was indescribable," she said. "It was a really scary experience."
Johnson said she had her three young children all lay on the ground of their bedroom floor. She said they were "terrified."
Through the screen door, Johnson watched as police dragged one injured officer across her lawn to safety and carried another. An officer who saw her at the door told her to stay in the house, she said.
Matt King, who lives five houses down from Stewart, said he clearly heard shots during the 10- to 12-minute gunfight. Yellow crime tape still blocked off a wide area around the crime scene late Thursday.
Flags in Ogden were ordered to fly at half-staff Thursday and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he'll order all flags throughout the state at half-staff on the day of the funeral.
"It really is a tragic situation. It gives us all pause," Herbert said. "Today I know we're united in mourning this incident, particularly with the loss of Jared Francom and his family and what they're going through."
Herbert met with some of the family members of the wounded officers Thursday. "Their medical outlook looks at least somewhat positive," he said.
"They are surprisingly upbeat, the families I met with," the governor said. "I think they are proud of the service their loved ones have given."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Thursday about the shootings: "We extend our sympathy and prayers to all who have been affected by this tragedy. We pray that the Spirit of the Lord will bring comfort, peace and healing to all at this difficult time."
Francom is the eighth Ogden police officer in the department’s history to be killed in the line of duty, and the 134th statewide. The last Ogden police officer killed in the line of duty was detective Marshall White, who was killed by a burglary suspect in 1963. The Marshall White Center in Ogden is named after him.
The Bank of Utah set up accounts in the names of each of the officers who were injured on Wednesday. All funds raised will go directly to the officer to whom the funds were donated, Ogden police said.
A Facebook page was created Thursday honoring Francom. A makeshift memorial with flowers and and candles was also erected outside the home where the shootings occurred.
At note placed at the memorial said: "Thank you agent Jared Francom for your sacrifice and unwavering heroism in the line of duty. You will not be forgotten. And may God bless your family and loved ones in their time of needs."
Contributing: Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Sandra Yi, Dennis Romboy, Hunter Schwarz
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