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Father of Army vet found dead in jail cell speaks out

Jun. 20, 2013 - 10:48AM   |  
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OGDEN, UTAH — The father of a Utah Army veteran recently found hanging dead in his jail cell says the jail failed to protect his son.

Michael Stewart told Weber County commissioners Tuesday that jail officials ignored his son and his complaints about conditions, The Standard-Examiner of Ogden reported.

Matthew David Stewart, 39, was found hanging from a bed sheet May 24 during a routine cell check.

Matthew Stewart was accused of killing an officer and wounding five others when a narcotics strike team descended on his Ogden home during a January 2012 raid that netted 13 marijuana plants. He could have faced the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder.

“They failed to treat my son like he was innocent until proven guilty,” Michael Stewart said, according to the Standard-Examiner. “The way that they treat people is not humane, psychologically and emotionally.”

County officials defended their handling of the jail and have said jail officials followed proper protocol for monitoring Stewart.

Weber County Commissioner Terry Gibson said he understands Stewart’s concerns but remains supportive of Weber County’s law enforcement.

“I felt sorry for the tragedy in his family. I think it would be awful to lose a son. However, I am convinced that, in this case, they were following law and procedure. We can’t take away the risk that people might make bad decisions, and Matthew Stewart made a very bad decision,” Gibson said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety is investigating Matthew Stewart’s death.

The January 2012 shooting led to fierce debate about what actually a happened that night — a discussion that was reignited after Matthew Stewart’s death.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith spoke at a news conference following the death to rebut the notion Matthew Stewart didn’t know the men in his house were police. Smith said the officers wore jackets with “police” on the back, and the evidence shows Stewart knew exactly who he was shooting at.

But Matthew Stewart’s family and supporters contend police didn’t properly identify themselves and that he was defending himself.

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