SALT LAKE CITY – An elaborate public funeral is planned for the Utah police officer who was gunned down as officers from a narcotics strike force tried to serve a warrant at a suspected pot grower's house.
Ogden authorities are scheduled to hold Officer Jared Francom's funeral services Wednesday inside an 11,500-seat arena that was being set up with more chairs on the floor of the Dee Events Center at Weber State University.
Officials planned a 90-minute procession on major city streets to the Ogden City Cemetery, and they advised motorists to expect delays.
"This is our opportunity as a community to show our support for Agent Jared Francom and his ultimate sacrifice," Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell wrote on his city's website.
Five other members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force were shot Jan. 4 during a raid on a small brick house in a quiet neighborhood where neighbors said they hadn't detected any drug activity. By Tuesday, all had been upgraded to fair condition or released from McKay-Dee Hospital, officials said.
Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith was quick to announce he plans to pursue the death penalty against Matthew David Stewart, a 37-year-old Army veteran who was cornered in a backyard shed and shot.
When doctors clear the suspect from a hospital for release, prosecutors plan to have Stewart immediately arrested for aggravated murder, marijuana cultivation and eight counts of attempted aggravated murder.
The three extra counts of attempted murder are for officers who dodged bullets while assisting wounded colleagues, Smith said.
The suspect's father, a 67-year-old private investigator, said he was in grief for the fallen officers but angry that authorities stormed his son's house for a pot offense. Michael Stewart believes his son was abruptly awakened before the start of his Walmart nightshift and that he "got into a fight and tried to get away."
"My son was not right, but two wrongs don't make a right," Stewart told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Ogden Police Chief Wayne Tarwater refused to respond directly to the father's speculation that Francom might not have been wearing a bulletproof vest.
Tarwater said it was "policy" for strike force members on drug raids to wear vests.
Thousands of people are expected to line Ogden's city streets for Wednesday's funeral procession. A 21-gun salute and the playing of taps will honor Francom at the Ogden City Cemetery, with helicopters flying overhead, police Lt. Danielle Croyle said.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he ordered flags lowered to half-staff on state property Wednesday across Utah in honor of Francom.
"Our hearts particularly go out to Agent Francom's wife, two young children, and parents, who have been tragically robbed of the presence of their beloved husband, father, and son," Herbert said Tuesday in a statement. "This shooting is a dreadful reminder that we should all be grateful for our brave law enforcement professionals who daily put their lives on the line in order to keep our communities safe."