Ex-chief surprised by 'remote' incident of 6 officers shot, but doubts police will change methods
OGDEN — Former Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner remembers when he took current interim Chief Wayne Tarwater to the funeral of Kane County sheriff's deputy Brian Harris in September 2010.
Harris was ambushed and shot without warning while following a man suspected of threatening a school custodian.
Greiner, who helped Utah get its Utah Law Enforcement Memorial at the state Capitol, had been to about 10 officer funerals over the past decade. He wanted Tarwater to see the dynamic of what a community goes through during those tragic events.
The tributes by those cities were great, Greiner recalled. But the support that the citizens of Ogden gave fallen officer Jared Francom recently — with thousands lining the streets during his funeral procession — is something Greiner said will be etched in his mind forever.
"I was truly humbled by the outpouring of our community," said the lifelong Ogden resident. "When I saw what Ogden was doing, it was very emotional."
Greiner sat down and spoke in an interview with the Deseret News Thursday about the events of the past few weeks. Francom was fatally wounded and five other members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were also shot while attempting to serve a search warrant at the house of Matthew Stewart, who investigators say was growing marijuana in his basement.
When Greiner was called at home on the night of the shooting, he and Tarwater went to the hospital together. He described that night as an emotional roller coaster.
"Because we were getting information from the operating room he (Francom) was coming around, he was doing good, he would be in recovery — then things went bad," Greiner said. "We had a good hour of emotional roller coaster events happening in the (operating) room."
Search warrants like the one that was served the night of shooting are common. Greiner, who was a member of the drug task force himself for four years in the 1970s, said his former department serves those about every two to three days.
Ogden police officers are put through training scenarios exactly like the one that happened on the night of Jan. 4, he said. Members of the public have also been invited to training sessions in which they are told beforehand that they will be entering a home with a warrant, but a gunman will be waiting to ambush them.
Even with such a warning, the citizens usually suffer a 50 percent to 60 percent casualty rate during the mock drills, he said.
"We have practiced that scenario. The scenario is available in the tactical center we train in. … For it really to happen surprises me. Just mathematically it's very remote that this kind of scenario would happen," Greiner said. "It's just incredible to me that that could happen.
"I don't know why we had so many officers in such close proximity to each other."
Greiner said he has not seen any of the reports that are being prepared about the Ogden shooting and is no longer privy to much of the investigations now that he's no longer the chief.
But he doesn't believe it will change the way Ogden police do business.
"I don't think anything will change as a result of this. I think we'll do more training of this scenario at the tactical center. I think that we'll continue to do police work the way we've always done police work, we'll involve the community," he said.
Police officers being ambushed without warning is a rare occurrence in Utah.
According to the 2010 Crime in Utah Report released Thursday by the Utah Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Identification, only two officers reported being ambushed in 2010, the most recent year available for the annual report.
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