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

Agents describe 'chaos' of January shootout

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

Officers did not make contact with Stewart. At one of the visits to Stewart's home, however, Vanderwarf said officers looked into a side door and clearly saw items that would suggest a marijuana growing operation, including a number of power cords leading into a basement room, a bright light coming from the room, waste from humidifiers, empty water jugs and a wooden stick believed to help in propping up marijuana plants.

On Jan. 4, Vanderwarf requested a warrant.

Francom used a battering ram to get the agents inside the house that night. He was the last in the home. The agents split up between the upstairs and downstairs.

Officer Shawn Grogan testified Wednesday that he was in the upstairs group and went to clear a bedroom hallway when he saw a gun come around the door and fire at him, striking him in the cheek. Vanderwarf was in the basement when shots rang out and he said he ran upstairs to see Grogan and officer Derek Draper leaving the home. He saw Francom returning fire before dropping to the ground. Vanderwarf testified he was struck in the hip soon after.

"What can you hear?" prosecutor Gary Heward asked.

"Just chaos," Vanderwarf said.

When the rest of the group had gone to the south door, Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson took a post near the front door. When he heard the south door being rammed, he met back up with the officers and entered the basement. After finding the marijuana growing operation, he "heard a burst of gunfire."

He remembered hearing the words "out" and thought the shooter had gone outside. After running outside and seeing nothing, he returned inside.

"I was met in the stairway there by agent Grogan, who had been shot," Hutchinson said. "He was holding his face, he was bleeding. I could tell that he had been shot in the face."

He put his arms around Grogan and helped walk him around the driveway to another sergeant who took Grogan to the hospital. He was returning back up the driveway when he again heard gunshots and ran into the home, ending up in the kitchen, where he could see Francom and Burrell.

"Agent Francom was in front of agent Burrell (and) he held his gun up in the air and I heard him announce that he was out (of ammunition)," Hutchinson said. "Agent Burrell was shuffling to get in front of (Francom) and there was another burst of gunfire and they both went down."

Prayer for protection

Hutchinson attempted to get Burrell and Francom out of the line of fire. He said he came under fire multiple times while trying to get the two to safety. As he was dragging Francom out, he saw a silhouette emerge from the hallway. Hutchinson dove backward, with Francom, and fell down four stairs until he said he was almost back to the south door of the home.

Then, he said, a hand clutching a gun reached around the corner and opened fire.

"(I) pretty much asked God to save me," Hutchinson said. "I pretty much pushed agent Francom out the door. Agent Draper was there to help pull him out."

Having emptied his weapon, Hutchinson picked up a shotgun from the floor of the kitchen. Once Francom was outside, he held that shotgun and manned the door.

"The aggressiveness of the shooting was standing out to me and I knew if I just turned and walked away we would probably all get shot in the back in the driveway," Hutchinson testified. "I stood in the door with the shotgun. A silhouette appeared at the top of the stairwell (and) I think he was startled and he jumped back and fired."

The bullet struck Hutchinson in his right arm, shattering it. He got out of the home and was making his way down the driveway when he saw muzzle flashes and realized he was now being shot at from the front door. He took cover in a gutter and made his way to a nearby police vehicle, which he and Burrell were loaded into and transported to the hospital by Draper.

Backup response

The shotgun belonged to Ogden police officer Michael Rounkles. Rounkles was on a patrol shift when he heard a radio call reporting shots fired and an officer down. He was only about a block away.

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