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.
Being assaulted by a person determined to be "mentally deranged" or a suspect committing a robbery or burglary are also incidents that are few and far between, according to the BCI statistics.
By far the most common type of call officers were responding to when they were assaulted were not during SWAT standoffs or drug busts or during the execution of search warrants. Rather, such assaults on officers occurred during disturbance calls such as family fights or loud parties, according to the 2010 report.
Since the shootout on Jan. 4, Greiner said the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force has been back on the street doing its work, including recently serving another knock-and-announce search warrant.
If members of the community are worried about a possible drug house on their street, Greiner said they need to report it to police.
"We cannot help you help yourself unless you help us do the job," he said. "We need community support."
Ogden police officer Kasey Burrell remained hospitalized Thursday in fair condition. The other injured officers have since been released. Stewart also remained hospitalized, although his condition was not disclosed.
A woman reported to police on Sept. 15 that she had "personally seen a hydroponics grow" in the basement of Stewart's home at 3268 Jackson Ave., according to an Ogden police report. The names on the report were redacted. Stewart has lived at that address for several years.
"She stated that it produces approximately 12-15 marijuana plants," the report states. And some pot was kept in a freezer.
Stewart, who is charged with capital murder and faces a possible death sentence if convicted, told a friend that if police officers ever tried to stop his marijuana cultivation, he'd "go out in a blaze of glory and shoot to kill," according to charges filed against him.
Even though he is no longer chief, Greiner said he felt a special bond with the injured Ogden officers.
"I hired them. I was responsible for their training," he said.
His relationship with Francom was especially close, describing it as a kind of father-son bond. Greiner said he had "grown very attached" to Francom over the years.
When Greiner started with the Ogden Police Department in 1973, he said there were 25,000 calls for service and 125 officers. Last year, there were 19 more officers on the force than in 1973, and 108,000 calls for service.Comment on this story
Ogden officials reluctantly fired Greiner in December after a federal panel determined he was in violation of the Hatch Act when he launched a candidacy for the state Senate in 2006. The termination was necessary, city leaders said, in order for Ogden to continue receiving certain federal grants and loans.
The Hatch Act prohibits the involvement of certain government employees in a partisan, political race if the entity they work for receives federal funding.