SALT LAKE CITY — A hearing held amid tight security Monday for an Ogden homeowner charged with killing a police officer during a pot raid underscored tension in the community between people who are sympathetic for police or critical of the late-night raid.
Courtroom doors were kept locked as bailiffs carefully separated the families of the suspect and the dead and wounded officers. The deputies kept a close watch on the suspect's outspoken father, a private investigator who has questioned police tactics in the Jan. 4 shootout.
Police say the 37-year-old suspect, Matthew David Stewart, opened fire on them but he claims it was self-defense.
The case has polarized Ogden. One camp is grieving for the dead officer and five others from a narcotics task force who were wounded by gunfire. Another group insists police over-reacted by storming Stewart's house for 16 pot plants.
The opposing views have played out for weeks on the Internet and the website of the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.
On Monday, the judge scheduled an evidence hearing for three days in July. Stewart is expected to return to court earlier for a status conference May 14.
Prosecutors are seeking a gag order, while Stewart's attorneys are asking the county to pay for a defense investigator and a ballistics expert. Second District Judge Noel Hyde issued no rulings Monday on those requests.
Outside court, Michael Stewart said recent court filings by police and prosecutors are an effort to discredit his son with allegations that he researched guns and ammunition on the Internet, studied anti-government websites and had "images consistent with child pornography" on his computer.
"They're trying to label him a terrorist and a pedophile," he said. "Let's see the evidence."
The family is seeking online contributions for a defense fund, an effort that was briefly interrupted when state officials said it had to incorporate a charity first. Those donations have amounted to "maybe $9,000" so far, Michael Stewart said.
"We have limited resources. That's why we're turning for help," he said. "The county can spend all the money they want."
Matthew Stewart appeared attentive to court proceedings in jail garb Monday. His father said he had depression and anxiety and pain from being shot by police. He may have been medicating himself with home-grown pot, his father has said.
Michael Stewart said the war on drugs should focus on illegal distribution, not "self-use" and that his son's case was "not about the drugs. It's about violence and intimidation."
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