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Wounded Roy officer: 'My focus is on my brothers'

Published: Saturday, Jan. 7 2012 6:58 p.m. MST

Roy City Chief of Police Gregory Whinham talks about Officer Jason Vanderwarf, one of his officers injured in this weeks shooting,  in Roy  Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Roy City Chief of Police Gregory Whinham talks about Officer Jason Vanderwarf, one of his officers injured in this weeks shooting, in Roy Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

ROY  — Wounded officer Jason Vanderwarf is passing the minutes, the hours and the days since Wednesday night's shooting focusing on one thing: his wounded colleagues who remain in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

He pays little attention to the bullet wound he received in his lower right hip and in fact limped defiantly into the Ogden Police Station the day after the shooting for a de-briefing.

"Right now it is very traumatic for everybody," he said Saturday during a press conference at his home department in Roy. "To sit back and take time to process it is kind of difficult. My focus, and the focus of my family, is concern for all my brothers up at the hospital right now."

Vanderwarf was one of six officers shot during a drug raid at 3268 Jackson Avenue, where members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were serving a warrant at the home of Matthew Davis Stewart. Police say Stewart met the officers at the door with gunfire. Ogden Police Officer Jared Francom died, and two other Ogden officers, Kasey Burrell and Michael Rounkles remain at McKay-Dee Hospital in critical condition.  Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson was upgraded to fair condition, as was Shawn Grogan, according to hospital spokesman Chris Dallin.

Roy City Chief of Police Gregory Whinham talks about Officer Jason Vanderwarf, one of his officers injured in this weeks shooting,  in Roy  Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Roy City Chief of Police Gregory Whinham talks about Officer Jason Vanderwarf, one of his officers injured in this weeks shooting, in Roy Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Accused shooter Stewart also remains hospitalized at Ogden Regional Medical Center, but with injuries that are not life threatening.

Because of the multitude of investigations that are ongoing — including the probe of what led to the shooting — Vanderwarf obviously couldn't talk about sequence of the nightmarish events that played out on a residential street in Ogden.

He did say it took only a split second for the magnitude of the circumstances to set in, and then life forever changed.

"We had a purpose and that purpose got altered due to a chain of events," he said. "We had to acclimate ourselves and transition over to new reality."

Vanderwarf, 37, said he didn't fully realize he'd been shot — the adrenalin was rushing, the mode was survival and the time to take assessment of his injuries had to wait until later.

Roy City Chief of Police Gregory Whinham talks about Officer Jason Vanderwarf, one of his officers injured in this weeks shooting,  in Roy  Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Roy City Chief of Police Gregory Whinham talks about Officer Jason Vanderwarf, one of his officers injured in this weeks shooting, in Roy Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

That's the state of mind he says he is in now, directing his focus on Francom and the others that were wounded.

"It will take time to decompress everything. I feel complete devastation that this happened. It is one of those things you always read about and see on the news happening to other departments, not happening to your own."

A former school resource officer assigned to Roy High School, Vanderwarf had only been up at the strike force for six months when the shooting played out this week. In that short time, however, he said bonds were quickly formed, especially with fallen officer Francom.

"He was one of the guys I started building a bond with," he said. "He was a great guy I could come to with my personal problems, my professional problems. He knew his job, he did his job excellently. He loved his job and loved his family. It is a really, really tough loss for everybody, the community."

For Vanderwarf, the community support in the aftermath of the shooting has left an impression he says will not diminish over time.

"At times it can be overwhelming," he said. "But as overwhelming as it is, it is greatly appreciated."

He said people keep asking him if there is anything they can do.

"I hear it over and over again, but I don't think we could hear it enough."

Despite the shooting, Vanderwarf says his commitment to law enforcement has not wavered.

"One of my sergeants said, and the best way I could put it is that we have an option: to do our job or not do our job."

Vanderwarf's chief, Greg Whinham, agreed that is the stuff that goes into making a law enforcement officer.

"I would venture to say that (on that night) every law enforcement officer in the state of Utah sat down and reflected on their commitment to law enforcement and you're not seeing anyone today skipping a beat."

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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