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'I almost got murdered that night,' injured officer testifies

Agents describe 'chaos' of January shootout

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

Matthew David Stewart sits at the defense table during the second day of the preliminary hearing Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 in Ogden.

Nick Short,

OGDEN — Five officers on Thursday recounted a night of fear and chaos when they were wounded by flying bullets or narrowly avoided them as they scrambled to rescue their injured comrades and escape.

The man charged with killing one officer and striking five others told an investigator that he was groggy that night when his military training "kicked in," and he tried to prevent the government intruders from killing him.

Ogden police officer Kasey Burrell had been assigned to clear the basement of Matthew Stewart's home, but testified Thursday that he ran upstairs when he heard gunshots.

"Basically as I go running up the stairs, obviously, I see blood all over the floor," Burrell said from the witness stand. "I then see agent Francom and he's in the hallway shooting at Mr. Stewart. I'm obviously yelling at him, asking him where (agents) Grogan, Nate (Hutchinson) are, because I thought one of my agents was hit and possibly murdered at that point. And (Francom) said, 'They're out, everyone's out.'"

His skull now held together with mesh and concrete, Burrell recounted Thursday the events of the Jan. 4 shootout while he and other members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force served a warrant at Stewart's Ogden home.

He answered the questions clearly in a matter-of-fact tone. But his voice shook and he had to pause to clear his throat when he spoke of his last memory of seeing Ogden police officer Jared Francom alive and the moment just before he himself was shot.

Francom was standing and returning fire. Burrell then saw Francom's body "recoil" before falling down to one knee.

"He takes a knee and he's shooting," Burrell recalled. "At one point, he turns his head back (toward Burrell) and he shakes it. Then he looks back and fires more. He then says, 'I'm out of ammo' and raises his gun up.

"I said, 'Get behind me … get behind me' and Mr. Stewart comes and shoots me and I don't remember it after that."

Burrell was shot in the head and was in the hospital for more than three weeks recovering from his injuries. He said he struggled to speak to those who visited him and described undergoing physical, speech and occupational therapy as part of his recovery. He did speak with family and other agents about the raid.

"I almost got murdered that night," Burrell said. "Of course I talked to them. … (The other agents) drug me out of the house. If it weren't for these officers, I'm dead."

Burrell's testimony came during the second day of a scheduled three-day preliminary hearing in 2nd District Court. Judge Noel Hyde will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to order Stewart to stand trial for aggravated murder, a capital offense; seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; and production of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony.

Stewart is accused of killing Francom and injuring five other officers at his Ogden home,  3268 Jackson Ave.

'Just chaos'

Roy police officer Jason Vanderwarf testified that he was made aware of a marijuana growing operation in Stewart's basement through a tip from Stewart's ex-girlfriend, Stacy Wilson. She told him Stewart had been growing 12 to 15 plants and had additional marijuana in his freezer. She also said Stewart had been growing marijuana for nine years.

He twice tried to meet with the woman without success before the case got "pushed to the side." Later, a sergeant asked about the case and Vanderwarf decided to try and perform a "knock and talk" at the home three times during the last week of December 2011.

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