Thousands attend funeral of Utah police officer

AP News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2012 7:21 PM
Thousands attend funeral of Utah police officer

A Utah police officer killed in a gunbattle last week with a suspected pot grower was buried in a tearful ceremony Wednesday that included a 21-gun salute, the release of about a dozen white doves and a statewide broadcast of a police dispatcher's final radio callout.

"Whiskey 12, Weber," the dispatcher called three times, the radio cracking. "Whiskey 12, Agent Jared Francom may no longer be with us, but he will not be forgotten."

The broadcast was heard at the Ogden City Cemetery, where it drew tears and audible sobs from family, friends and as many as 1,000 police officers. Afterward, uniformed officers streamed pasted Francom's casket, some leaving behind their white gloves and patches from their respective agencies.

A seven-year veteran of the Ogden police force, Francom was killed as he and about a dozen fellow members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Task Force tried to serve a search warrant on Jan. 4.

The graveside services followed an emotional public memorial attended by more than 4,000 at Weber State University's arena. The vast majority of mourners were uniformed officers, who stood and silently saluted as the flag-draped casket was wheeled in by members of Francom's unit.

"What a sight to see," Travis Francom told mourners while looking around the arena. "I know my brother would be proud, because we all are his family."

Jared Francom, 30, loved his job so much that he found it hard to take a night off, said Shane Keyes, a strike force colleague. When he did, he checked in with team members by phone and text to see if they were safe and if he was missing a big or exciting case.

"That saying _ `a cop's cop' _ that was made for a guy like Jared," Keyes said.

Another brother, Ben Francom, said Jared was an "adrenaline junkie" who loved skydiving and had a "go big or go home attitude." But he was also a lighthearted person.

"He loved to crack jokes or to smile, just to keep the mood light and keep everyone around him less stressed," he said.

Francom was also remembered for his passion for the Dallas Cowboys, and for the wife and two young daughters he called each night he was on duty.

"He always ended every phone call with how much he loved his girls and missed them and couldn't wait to see them," Keyes said.

Travis Francom said he and his older brother had a typical relationship

"He picks on me, I pick on him ... I'd usually start to cry and then I'd get him in trouble," he said, drawing laughter.

He added that he was grateful to know that when his brother "went down, he was fighting and that he was fighting for his comrades."

After the funeral service, Francom's casket was driven along a four-mile route to the cemetery, with several thousand people lining the streets looking on.

April Matthews of nearby Morgan brought her 12-year-old son and three members of his Boy Scout troop to watch the procession.

"These boys have lots of days to go to school, but this is the first officer we've lost in 30 years," she said. "I hope this will make an impression on them about the service our officers provide."

Five other members of the narcotics team were also wounded in the raid, some critically. Three remained hospitalized, but all had been upgraded to fair condition by Tuesday and one _ Shawn Grogan _ was brought to Wednesday's service in an ambulance.

Suspect Matthew David Stewart was cornered in a backyard shed before he was shot by police. When doctors clear him for release, the 37-year-old Army veteran will be immediately arrested on suspicion of aggravated murder, marijuana cultivation and eight counts of attempted aggravated murder, Weber County Attorney Dee W. Smith said.

Smith has also said he'll pursue the death penalty against Stewart.

Stewart'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."

Stewart has said his son suffers from anxiety and depression and might have been growing pot for his own use.

"My son was not right, but two wrongs don't make a right," Stewart said.

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Contact Jennifer Dobner at http://www.twitter.com/JenniferDobner