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Soldier suspected in deadly pot raid said police shot first

Jul. 5, 2013 - 09:04AM   |  
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OGDEN, UTAH — From a hospital bed, an Army veteran described how he opened fire on a narcotics task force raiding his home — a firefight that left one officer dead and five others wounded.

“They just unloaded down the hallway, and I saw dust and wood fragments flying everywhere,” Matthew David Stewart said in recently released recordings of interviews conducted in the days after the Jan. 4, 2012 shooting.

“And I hadn’t pulled the trigger. I sorta felt like they were definitely there to kill me,” he said.

Stewart was found hanging May 24 at Weber County jail before prosecutors could try him on charges of aggravated and attempted murder. He was 39.

Police have testified Stewart got off the first shot after they announced a search warrant that yielded a minor marijuana growing operation in the basement of his Ogden house.

But in nearly two hours of recorded interviews released by the Weber County Attorney’s Office, Stewart told staff investigator Robert Carpenter he was defending himself from a “bunch of guys” he couldn’t recognize. “I think they would have just killed me.”

Stewart said he pointed a 9mm Beretta around the door jam of his bedroom and “that’s when the shooting started.”

At one point while recovering from a gunshot wound, Stewart expressed misgivings.

“Still trying to figure out if it was the wrong way or not,” he told the investigator. “Because I don’t think I would have had a chance if I didn’t do that. Think they would have just killed me.”

Carpenter asked, “So what did you do?”

“Defended myself,” Stewart said.

“How?”

“With a gun.”

The recordings were released first to the Standard-Examiner of Ogden and then to other Utah newspapers by the Weber County Attorney’s Office. The Standard-Examiner also published dozens of police photographs of the bloody scene left inside the house.

Crime-scene technicians have testified they confiscated 13 intact pot plants from Stewart’s basement. It has sometimes been reported as 16 plants, though three of them were said to be balls of roots.

Ogden police officer Shawn Grogan was the first to get shot, in the jaw, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing in November 2012.

Ogden officer Jared Francom was shot and killed when he tried to cover for other officers who pulled Grogan to safety.

Four other officers also were shot in the melee, one outside the house after he raced to the scene to back up the beleaguered task force.

In a soft and sometimes inaudible voice between long pauses, Stewart also reflected on his life. He said he joined the Army because “I thought I was fighting for an honorable cause and protecting American people, the Constitution.” He said he left military service after concluding “I was protecting corporate interests. I was fighting for money.”

He added, “My faith in the government has been so undermined through the years.”

Pressed on his belief about who was entering his house, Stewart would only say, “We’ve got a lot of branches out there.”

“Branches of what?” Carpenter asked.

“Branches of the government,” replied Stewart, who added, “Well, I didn’t see them in uniform, and I didn’t hear anything specific.”

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