5 years, 3 months ago
From San Francisco Chronicle:
Ogden, Utah —
Search warrant in hand, a team of bulletproof vest-wearing officers rapped on the door of a small, red-brick Utah house, identifying themselves as police. When no one responded, authorities say, the officers burst inside.
That’s when the gunfire erupted.
When it was over Wednesday night, a seven-year veteran officer was dead and five of his colleagues were wounded, some critically. The suspect, an Army veteran whose estranged father said suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have been self-medicating with marijuana, was injured.
As the city tried Thursday to grapple with the outburst of violence and the loss of one of its officers, investigators were trying to determine how the raid as part of a drug investigation could have gone so terribly wrong.
“It’s a very, very sad day,” an emotional Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater said.
Police declined to reveal details of the shooting besides a general timeline, citing the ongoing investigation.
Among the questions that authorities will try to answer was whether the officers, in the chaotic moments upon entering the house, may have inadvertently fired on each other.
Police said the warrant was based on information about possible drug activity, but would not say what officers were specifically looking for inside Matthew David Stewart’s home.
Stewart, 37, was in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said. He does not have an attorney yet.
Stewart served in the Army from July 1994 to December 1998, spending a year based in Fort Bragg, N.C., and nearly three years stationed in Germany, Army records show.
He held a post as a communications equipment specialist, earning an Army Achievement Medal and a National Defense Service Medal. Both are given for completing active service.
Stewart’s father, Michael Stewart, said his son works a night shift at a local Walmart and may have been sleeping when police arrived.
“When they kicked in the door, he probably felt threatened,” said Michael Stewart, who has been estranged from his son for more than a year, but keeps track of him through his two other sons.
He said he didn’t believe his son owned any automatic weapons and that the family is upset by what happened. Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said it wasn’t yet clear what charges Stewart might face once the shooting investigation concludes.
SWAT raids, in all but a handful of cases, constitute reckless endangerment of the individuals inside the home. Recall that we previously discussed how these kinds of raids also involve endangerment to the officers themselves? In this case, one officer is dead and five wounded – all unnecessarily. It will be interesting to see how this case proceeds. If Mr. Stewart believed that his life was in danger from a home invasion, will a judge or jury actually rule that he had no right to defend himself? Should he sit and allow a home intruder to kill him given the possibility that it might be police officers? Will prosecution bring charges against Mr. Stewart?
There is a solution, of course, to this problem. Don’t do no-knock SWAT raids.