Thousands attend funeral of slain Ogden police officer (video)
By Nate Carlisle And Kristen Moulton The Salt Lake Tribune
Published January 11, 2012 10:24 pm
Funeral • Father of two who was killed last week in a shootout while serving a warrant at an Ogden home "wouldn't let a fellow officer down," former supervisor said.
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Ogden • There was Jared Francom the joker, who teased his boss about his age.
There was Jared Francom the loyal comrade, who once arrived at a scene in a wrecked car to help a fellow Ogden officer.
And there was Jared Francom the husband and father, who would call home every night to speak to his young family.
"Jared loved to serve all that he could, but I believe the greatest thing he accomplished was to be a father to two beautiful daughters," said his younger brother, Gunner Francom.
Friends and family described all those Jared Francoms on Wednesday as Ogden and much of the state turned out to mourn the 30-year-old police officer killed in last week's shootout that injured five other officers from the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force.
An estimated 4,000 people about half of them uniformed law enforcement officers attended Francom's service at Weber State University's Dee Events Center. Boy Scouts and Ogden citizens lined the four-mile motorcade route to Ogden City Cemetery.
Inside the Events Center, Francom's widow, Erin Francom, walked onto the arena floor with her two children. Officers stood and saluted as a color guard escorted the casket.
Gov. Gary Herbert sat behind the podium with other dignitaries, Francom's family and LDS Church authorities. The service included LDS hymns and scripture readings, and Francom's three brothers all said they expect to see their brother in the afterlife.
Ben Francom said his brother did everything with emphasis. Francom even drove fast, and once got pulled over by his police supervisor.
"He didn't want to be just a regular patrol officer. He wanted to go big," Ben Francom said. "He wanted to be on the strike force."
Ogden police Lt. Troy Burnett, who was Francom's supervisor when he started with the department seven years ago, recalled that Francom got into a fender-bender but still managed to arrive at the scene of a domestic dispute to help Burnett.
Burnett told the crowd that when he asked Francom why he didn't simply report being unable to make it, Francom responded, "Sarge, when I heard you arrive on scene, I just couldn't stand the thought of you waiting on me."
Added Burnett: "That's the kind of officer Jared was. He wouldn't let a fellow officer down."
But even on the job, Francom's sense of humor shone. Francom used to kid the now-45-year-old Burnett about being an old man. After Francom put Burnett in a headlock one night as a joke, Burnett said he had a deputy county attorney create a fake summons charging Francom with assault on an officer.
Burnett said Francom responded by saying: "I feel pretty lucky to only be charged with assault. I thought due to your age it would be abuse of the elderly."
Ogden police Officer Shane Keyes told the mourners how Francom would call his wife and daughters every night. But Francom also watched out for fellow officers. Keyes remembered a night when he tried to send Francom home to his family and let other strike force members handle a case.
Keyes said Francom answered with a text that said: "My wife and kids are safe in bed. You guys aren't. You guys are my family, too."
The five strike force officers who were wounded during the deadly Jan. 4 drug raid were listed as honorary casket bearers on the funeral program.
Earlier Wednesday, 37-year-old Ogden officer Shawn Grogan was released from McKay-Dee Hospital and attended the funeral in a wheelchair.
Roy police Officer Jason VanderWarf, 37, and Weber County sheriff's Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, who were released from the hospital days ago, were also at the funeral.
Still hospitalized Wednesday were Ogden police officers Kasey Burrell, 33, and Michael Rounkles, 29. Burrell was in fair condition and Rounkles in serious condition at McKay-Dee Thursday. Burrell earlier had been in a medically-induced coma following surgery to remove bullets from his head and abdomen.
Near the end of the service, Travis Francom read a letter he received from his brother while at the church's Missionary Training Center before going on a mission to Alabama. In the letter, Francom told Travis Francom that he loved him and missed him.
Travis Francom then read the letter again, this time as if it were a going-away message to Francom.
"I miss you, Jared, so much," the letter states toward the end. "Thank you for everything you do for me."
The thousands who showed respect to Francom's family and Ogden police by lining the route to the cemetery were perhaps outnumbered by the thousands of American flags.
The Ogden Public Works Department, with the help of area Mormon wards and stakes, placed up to 5,000 large American lawn flags along the route to Francom's final resting place; another 5,000 handheld flags were provided to those gathered along the route.
Francom's casket was carried by an Ogden fire truck draped in black, followed by a hearse carrying the slain officer's widow. Behind them came the Ben Lomond High Bagpipe Corps playing the somber "Highland Cathedral."
At the cemetery, Erin Francom wore dark glasses and a black coat as she sat before the casket flanked by her parents and in-laws.
The couple's young daughters, Samantha Rose and Hailey Lynn, wore cream-colored coats and mittens.
Tears flowed freely as Francom's radio call sign, Whiskey 12, was broadcast at 3:14 p.m., and there was no answer.
The impact of that last call was profound, said Ogden Officer Bryce Cantwell. "He's a fallen brother. You hope something like this never happens."
Ogden Interim Police Chief Wayne Tarwater presented Erin Francom with the flag that draped her husband's coffin.
Tarwater shared a few memories of the slain officer, who was president of the Ogden Police Benefit Association. Unlike some officers who rarely show their faces around the station, Francom liked to visit and often talked about both his work and personal life, Tarwater said. His friendliness made him a favorite among some of the assistant chiefs, he said.
"With a well-lived life there can be no sorrow," said Tarwater, whose career as chief began just days before the fatal gunfight. He previously was an assistant chief.
After a 21-gun salute and "Taps" played by a lone trumpeter, a dozen white doves were freed from baskets and flew over the open grave. Four helicopters also flew in formation over the more than 1,000 assembled mourners.
Shooting suspect Matthew David Stewart, a 37-year-old Army veteran, continued to recover Wednesday from non-life threatening injuries suffered during the shootout.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith has said he plans to charge Stewart with aggravated murder, which carries the possibility of the death penalty. Smith also anticipates filing eight counts of attempted murder, as well as a cultivation of marijuana charge.
The suspect's father, Michael Stewart, has questioned police tactics and claims officers "botched" the initial investigation into his son's marijuana growing activities. He claims his son who suffers from depression and anxiety grew marijuana to self-medicate and is not a drug dealer.
Tribune reporter Bob Mims contributed to this story
McKay-Dee Hospital spokesman Chris Dallin said Thursday that Ogden police Officer Michael Rounkles, 29, had been downgraded from fair to serious condition. Dallin did not offer details on what prompted the decline in Rounkles' condition.
Ogden police Officer Kasey Burrell, 33, remained in fair condition Thursday.
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