Man charged with killing Ogden officer found dead in jail

Matthew Stewart 'knew who he was shooting at' in firing 31 rounds, prosecutor says

Published: Friday, May 24 2013 8:15 a.m. MDT

Matthew David Stewart appears in 2nd District Court in Ogden, Monday, May 14, 2012. Stewart is charged with killing Ogden police officer Jared Francom and wounding five other officers who were serving a search warrant at his Ogden home.

Matthew Arden Hatfield

OGDEN — Matthew David Stewart, the man accused of shooting and killing Ogden police officer Jared Francom and wounding five others, committed suicide inside his Weber County Jail cell early Friday.

About 12:50 a.m., a corrections officer making an hourly check of cells found Stewart, 39, hanging from a bed sheet, said Weber County Attorney Dee Smith. Less than an hour earlier, Stewart had been seen "awake and alert" on his bed, he said.

Smith had few other details to release about the death Friday, noting that the Utah Department of Public Safety has been asked to conduct an independent investigation.

But now that Stewart's case is closed, Smith opened up about the criminal charges against him, saying that Stewart fired 31 rounds at officers on the night of Jan. 4, 2012, including shots at officers who had already been shot and were being dragged out of the house to safety.

Seventeen of those shots hit police officers.

Smith also tersely responded to allegations from Stewart's family that his rights had been violated by officers they referred to as a "gang of thugs."

"Mr. Stewart was afforded all of his constitutional rights," Smith said.

Stewart was charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense, in the shooting death of Ogden police officer Jared Francom at Stewart's Ogden home, 3268 Jackson Ave., in 2012. Five other officers were also shot during the police action involving the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force.

His family has been critical of law enforcement and the judicial system since Stewart's arrest, calling the incident a "tragic misunderstanding." Family members have said Stewart was being "made a scapegoat for violent mistakes and procedures of the police." Stewart told investigators that he thought his home was being invaded and said his military training "just kicked in" when the raid occurred.

In a Facebook post Friday, Stewart's family wrote: "Our son Matthew David Stewart is in the hands of his creator after a long and courageous battle with a corrupt and arrogant judicial system. He was supposed to be considered innocent until he was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

The family continued with their criticism of the way officers handled the incident.

"Unfortunately this system has become so perverted that those people that are in power are able to lie and justify their actions after purposely violating someone's civil rights and the rights that were supposed to be protected by the Constitution of the United States of America," the family wrote.

"After the illegal assault on his home by a gang of thugs and his inhumane treatment at the Weber County Correctional Institute, along with the recent loss of an unfair and unjust ruling by the court, Matthew gave up hope of his ever getting justice in his case.

"It is another devastation to all of us that comes with the territory in trying to fight the tyranny of a one-sided corrupt system of government where those in power will cover up their mistakes and justify their actions at any cost — even when they know the truth of their deceit will cover it up and protect those who are responsible in an effort to preserve this system that they have created," his family wrote in the post.

Smith responded Friday by saying the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force had information that Stewart had an elaborate operation cultivating marijuana in his basement. Officers had attempted to contact him several times but with no success. A judge eventually authorized a "knock-and-announce" search warrant.

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