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Man charged with killing police officer found dead in jail cell

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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 had 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.

Stewart's family issues statement

Francom family feeling sense of 'abrupt relief' at news of Stewart's death
by Mike Anderson

OGDEN — Family members of Jared Francom say while they were hoping to see accused killer Matthew David Stewart tried in the justice system, Friday's early conclusion may be a lot less painful.

While Stewart's suicide may bring an early end to this ordeal, they say it still doesn't bring back the man who made a lasting impact on their lives.

"He truly was a man that would lay down his life for his friends," Shawna Francom Peterson, Jared Francom's aunt, said Friday.

She said her nephew made an impact on nearly everyone around him, even some of those whom he arrested.

"There wasn't a more key person in our family that could have been taken," Peterson said.

Francom was the one officer killed in a January 2012 Ogden shootout. With the alleged killer now dead, Peterson said her family members share a feeling that may be described as a sort of abrupt relief.

"To the Francom family, the suicide feels like the admission of guilt we've been waiting for," she said. "We won't have to sit through the trial and listen to more of the negative media."

Francom's father, Jade Francom, was out of town Friday. But he told KSL News over the phone his son is in his family's thoughts every day.

"The girls, there isn't a day that goes by that they don't tell … grandma and grandpa, or their uncle sor their mom, how much they miss their day," he said.

That remains the toughest thing for the Francoms. While this story may be reaching a conclusion, Jade Francom said nothing is really fixed. Jared Francom is still gone.

"I don't know that there is an overall feeling of justice any time something like this happens," Peterson said. "It's just a sad, sad thing to lose somebody that is so key and so beautiful, and so amazing in everything they did."

Francom's widow, Erin Francom, was not available for an interview Friday. But she did release a statement saying that Stewart may not get his day in court, but he will have to answer to a higher power.


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.

Stewart's sister-in-law, Erna Stewart, said she was floored when she watched Friday's press conference.

"I was really disappointed with Dee Smith and his office. You know, why not let us have this day to grieve?" she said.

Police response and explanation of charges

Smith responded to the family statement 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.

"This is exactly what the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment requires. The officers complied with the law in every respect," Smith said. He added that a judge ruled on Wednesday that the search warrant was "constitutionally sound," which may have been the "unjust ruling" that Stewart's family referred to in their statement.

The officers did not have an arrest warrant, so waiting for Stewart to come outside and arrest him, as critics have suggested, would not have been legal, Smith said.

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After officers — who Smith emphasized were wearing items that identified them as police and who made several announcements that they were officers — entered Stewart's house about 8:40 p.m., they had cleared all but one room.

As the officers were in the hallway to clear the final room, Stewart unexpectedly started firing from a concealed position, striking Ogden police officer Shawn Grogan in the jaw, Smith said. Grogan sought cover in a nearby bathroom, where he was "trapped." Officer Derek Draper attempted to help but was caught in the hallway.

Smith said that's when Francom came in and provided cover by "engaging in gunfire" for Draper to get Grogan out of the house. Francom's actions, Smith said, saved the lives of his fellow officers.

Francom was shot seven times. Smith dispelled rumors Friday that Francom and others were hit by friendly fire.

"Ballistics have been done," he said. "Every bullet that struck an officer was fired from Mr. Stewart's gun."

As officers attempted to get Francom out of the house, Stewart continued firing.

"The reason six officers were injured is because they went to the aid of agent Francom," Smith said.

The county attorney also said he's heard "a lot of noise" that Stewart didn't know know they were police officers. He said such claims don't hold any water.

Instead of Mathew Stewart saying, 'Thank goodness the police are here to assist me,' he immediately put a bullet in officer Rounkle's head.

–Dee Smith, Weber County attorney

"The onus is very clear that he knew who he was shooting at," he said.

Ogden police officer Michael Rounkles, for example, arrived at the home as backup in a full Ogden police uniform.

"Instead of Mathew Stewart saying, 'Thank goodness the police are here to assist me, he immediately put a bullet in officer Rounkle's head," Smith said. "These officers' actions were heroic and they followed the law every step of the way."

Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson concurred that Stewart had been treated "in a humane and professional way with trust and integrity" ever since he was taken to the hospital following the shootout.

As with all inmates, Thompson said someone checked up on Stewart at least once an hour, 24 hours a day, in his cell. He also noted that since February of 2012, Stewart had rejected all offers from mental health professionals for assistance or counseling.

Thompson said he believes suicide is a "community problem that affects all of us" and "deserves increased attention."

Smith and Thompson refused to answer any questions from the media during the press conference.

Stewart trial had been scheduled for April of 2014.

Contributing: Andrew Adams


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