OGDEN, Utah (ABC 4 News) - A preliminary hearing is underway to determine if Matthew Steward will stand trial for the shooting death of a police officer and wounding several others.
A low risk search warrant turned into a gun battle between police and Stewart who was inside a home.
Members of the Morgan-Weber Strike Force executed the search warrant on January 4 at Stewart’s home.
In opening arguments Assistant District Attorney John Heward told a judge that police received information that Stewart was growing marijuana inside his home.
In fact, Heward said that police later found 16 marijuana plants, tools for growing and several pounds of marijuana.
Stewart’s defense attorneys offered no opening comments.
The state Medical Examiner testified that Jared Francom, who was killed during the gun battle, died from six shots mainly in the abdomen area. He also said that if Francom would have lived, he would have been paralyzed because one of the bullets hit his spine.
The first officer to take the stand was Ogden policeman Shawn Grogan.
During examination by Heward, Grogan offered details of the execution of the search warrant at Stewart's home, describing how the task force entered the home.
Grogan testified that one member of the task force knocked on Stewart's door and yelled that the the officers were executing the warrant and entering the house.
Grogan told the court there was no answer, and that Francom then used a ramming device to break down the door.
Grogan said the team spit up and searched the home, until they encountered Stewart in a bedroom, holding a firearm.
Grogan then testified that Stewart opened fire, hitting him in the left side of his face and cheek. Officer Grogan told the court that he returned fire until he ran out of ammunition.
Grogan said he waited in a bathroom until the firing stopped and he was able to exit the home to the driveway area where fellow officers helped him to safety.
Grogan also testified the he lost several teeth, his tongue was severed, and a portion of his jaw was shot out.
During cross-examination by Stewart's defense attorneys, Grogan was quetioned about his training and the execution of the warrant.
“I fired but not before the suspect fired,” said Grogan.
Prior to start of the hearing, a handful of protestors gathered outside in support of Stewart.
“Matthew is a victim of the drug war, a survivor of police violence, a police scapegoat and a political prisoner,” said organizer Jesse Fruhwirth.
The group claims there is too much police aggression going on nationwide and this is an example of that.
“Matthew's case states the startling erosion of American civil liberties. We’re now a nation where paramilitary police invade American’s homes for non-violent and victimless crimes,” said Fruhwirth. “[Matthew] he’s being kept in a five by eleven foot cell for 23 hours a day. And these are conditions usually reserved for highly dangerous criminals. But for most of Matthew’s time in jail, he’s struggled just to survive the nearly fatal wounds inflicted upon him by the Weber-Morgan Narcotics strike force.”
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