OGDEN — The second day of a preliminary hearing for a man accused of killing a police officer and injuring several others is underway.
Thursday, prosecutors had narcotics strike force Officer Jason Vanderwarf take the stand in day two of a three-day preliminary hearing. Noel Hyde, a judge in the 2nd District, will determine whether or not Matthew David Stewart will stand trial. Stewart faces charges of aggravated murder, seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, and production of a controlled substance.
Vanderwarf was in charge of operations on Jan. 4 when officers served a search warrant to Stewart's Ogden home.
The officer testified that he saw fellow Officer Jared Francom go down after Stewart allegedly open-fired on the team of officers. He told the courtroom that the officers were trying to pull Officer Kasey Burrell, who was also shot, and Francom out of the house when Stewart came out and continued shooting. Vanderwarf was shot in the hip.
Another witness, Officer Casey Burrell, recounted his version of the story in tears. He said the last thing he saw before being struck by a bullet in the head was Francom engaged in gun fire with Stewart.
He stated, "I was almost murdered that night," and the he would have been dead had other officers not pulled him from the house.
Stewart's family contends that he is a "police scapegoat" who didn't hear officers announce their presence. He has said he thought that he was being robbed. Officers say they entered the home with the warrant only after loudly announcing several times, "Police, search warrant."
Erna Stewart, Matthew David Stewart's sister-in-law, said after the hearing that the issue is not black and white and the defense witnesses will prove that.
"We are actually getting more and more people to kind of try and realize that there are inconsistencies in the case," Erna Stewart said.
Some of those inconsistencies were pointed out during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses Thursday. Narcotics officers did not perform a background check on Stewart's ex-girlfriend who gave them the tip of a marijuana growth in his house, and not all officers were wearing ballistics vests that night.