OGDEN, UT — Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith will seek the death penalty for Matthew Stewart, the US Army veteran who fired at police January 5 when they entered his home to serve a search warrant for a suspected marijuana grow operation. Smith will file the charges when Stewart is transferred from the hospital to jail.
Smith said Stewart, accused of shooting and killing Ogden police officer Jared Francom and wounding five other officers, will likely face charges of capital murder, eight counts of attempted aggravated murder and cultivation of marijuana.
Smith confirmed that the warrant Ogden Police were attempting to serve on the night of January 5 was a search warrant, believing that Stewart was growing marijuana in his home. Smith said that it was not an arrest warrant. In 2011, the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Task Force seized 6,600 marijuana plants in similar raids.
Smith also confirmed that a “suspicious device” was found in a closet in the house on Saturday. Because of “its appearance and other components located nearby,” a local bomb squad was called and detonated the device inside the house. However, Smith couldn’t say that it was actually a bomb, and stressed that the detonation was a precautionary measure.
Smith could not confirm reports in the media that some of the police officers were wounded by “friendly fire”, but he did say that “a number of individuals were wounded as they were giving aid and trying to remove fallen officers from the scene.”
Michael Stewart, father of the suspect, said his son suffers from mental problems, possibly due to post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-medicates with marijuana. Because Utah does not have a recognized medical marijuana program, he believes his son was growing marijuana for his own personal use, insisting that his son did not sell drugs.
Stewart said shooting in a situation where a group of armed men break into a house isn’t all that surprising, especially when it is the home of an army veteran. If his son, who worked the overnight shift at a local Walmart, was sleeping at the time, he could easily react by defending himself, especially considering his military training.
“Hey, figure it out. If 12 [armed] people come through your door, what are you going to do?” he asked.
But Stewart believes both his son and police overreacted on the night of January 5. “My whole thing is, it was an overreaction on both of their parts, and both families are suffering,” he said. “I just want it to be known, our hearts go out to all those officers and their families.”
State court records indicate Matthew Stewart’s only criminal conviction was in 2005 in on a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle without insurance. He paid a $350 fine.