Officers recount the panic and the calm during Ogden shootout

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

Protestors Mike Bacunin and Ryan Kropotkin stand outside in support of Matthew Stewart on the the first day of his three-day preliminary hearing at the 2nd District Courthouse in Ogden Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. Stewart is charged with aggravated murder and seven counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly opening fire on a team of police officers who arrived at his Ogden home to serve a search warrant.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

OGDEN — Sgt. Steve Zaccardi remembers a sense of calm coming over him as he left the search warrant operation at 3268 Jackson Ave. to transport fellow Ogden police officer Shawn Grogan to a hospital.

"I saw a police car, a Dodge Charger coming in, as I came out my lights hit it and reflected and I said, 'They got there quick,'" Zaccardi testified Wednesday. "A sense of calm came over me, like, 'Help's here.' … I knew there wasn't a patrolman on our (operation), so I knew that help had arrived."

At the time, Zaccardi thought the gunshot wound to Grogan's face was the worst of the injuries sustained when the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force went to serve a search warrant at the home of Matthew Stewart. Zaccardi drove the officer to McKay-Dee Hospital and planned to call his fellow sergeant and supervisor, Nate Hutchinson, for an update on the Jackson Avenue operation.

He had returned to the car to secure Grogan's weapon and was walking back into the hospital when a nurse came rushing by and said, "We got four more coming."

"It was panic in the E.R.," Zaccardi said. "I had a feeling what it was, but I didn't want to believe it. I was hoping and praying. The next thing I know I see agent Draper with Kasey Burrell wheeling him in. (Burrell's) face is covered in blood. … (Officer Michael) Rounkles comes around the corner on a stretcher. He kind of gives me a thumbs up.

"Then Hutchinson comes around the corner and he's walking. He said he's been shot. I had this panic. For the first time in my career, I didn't know what to do."

When the encounter finally ended, Ogden police officer Jared Francom was dead and five other officers were injured in the shootout at Stewart's home.

The description was part of a three-day preliminary hearing on the evidence against Stewart, a hearing begun Wednesday in 2nd District Court as a handful of Stewart backers stood outside the courthouse raising their voices in support of the man accused of killing an officer and injurying five others.

The case against Stewart

Zaccardi said he first received a tip in September 2011 that Stewart was cultivating an indoor marijuana garden in the basement of his home. He assigned the case to a strike force agent, Roy police officer Jason Vanderwarf.

Grogan testified that he went to the home to try and make contact with Stewart. Zaccardi said other officers did as well. But no one ever responded to knocks on the door.  While police saw evidence of marijuana, Zacardi said they weren't sure if anyone lived at the home.

Vanderwarf obtained a "knock and announce" warrant at the home authorizing the officers to enter the house after announcing their presence. A briefing was held Jan. 4 for those agents assigned to the operation and they then gathered nearby at an LDS church before proceeding.

Grogan was the first to knock on the door and announce that they were police officers.

"It's extremely loud," Grogan testified. "He's yelling into the house. … The timeframe would have allowed somebody to make the trip from the far end of the home to this south door at least several times."

Vanderwarf knocked at least four times, according to Zaccardi. Francom was tasked with ramming the door. It took three tries to break through.

"I had a brief little conversation with agent Francom right there at the door, then he went in," Zaccardi said. "So, I believe Jared was the last guy in. In fact, I know he was. … He said, 'Sarge, I didn't get my record of one hit on the door.' He was a big guy, a strong guy. He had a reputation of getting (through) doors on one hit."

The encounter

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