With so much speculation in criminal-justice circles as to what went wrong in the Ogden drug-bust shooting that left six officers wounded, one mortally, I asked a veteran cop for his take.
The shooting, which took place on Jan. 4, 2012, followed an attempt by several officers to seize a marijuana-growing operation belonging to the shooting suspect, Matthew David Stewart, who now faces a capital-murder charge. "He told the officers to come back with a warrant," speculated the officer, who agreed to share his views if he remained anonymous. He suspects that, at that point, members of the Weber-Morgan Strike Force believed Stewart would flee the premises to avoid being arrested.
They knocked and announced themselves, got no answer, broke open the door and "he was waiting for them." At this point, the veteran officer says, "tactics" or what he calls "the fatal funnel," trapped them in the hallway. "That's really where cops die. You have nowhere to go, no cover, no concealment." The shooter "sticks his gun around the corner at head level and starts pulling the trigger."
He says so many cops were shot because as the first "guys went down, others went to their aid," and themselves got hit. Stewart, according to an excellent story by Pat Reavy in the Deseret News, then went after them, still firing his 9 mm handgun.
The cop I talked to inevitably reserved some of his ire for the shooter. "I will never understand and never accept someone who's willing to kill for a drug. That is the most evil thing I can think of.
Surprisingly, though, this veteran officer directs most of his anger at Gov. Gary Herbert, who visited with Officer Jared Francom's widow after the funeral. "That's the biggest tragedy of the whole thing," he says.
That's because in recent years, Utah lawmakers voted to push back police officers' retirement from 20 years service to 25 years and cut their retirement pay from 50 percent to 35 percent. "The disingenuousness of it," he rages. "They cut our retirement, and then those fuckers go there and say, 'We know what you do on the street.' That's how much appreciation we get. They look at the wife, the hero, and then take their money and make us work even longer."
This officer, however, warned that the bill, sponsored by former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, would have a detrimental effect on policing in the future. "Anyone who becomes a cop now is crazy," he says. "Dealing with death and tragedy wears on you. New cops are going quit after five or 10 years," when faced with the prospects of the additional years and the reduced pension. "You'll see more complaints [by the public], more dirty cops." Cops, "just won't be as invested as they used to be."
Liljenquist's bill, it might be noted, was also intended to stop "double dipping," where state employees effectively collect a pension and a paycheck at the same time.
Right now, this officer concludes, with the shootings, the public provides a lot of support. But when it comes to the legislative session, who do the politicians go after? "The teachers and the cops, the people who don't have a voice," he concludes.