"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tragedy in Ogden

It's been a wild week here in Ogden. Things started out calm, but by Wednesday evening I was in the local ER with Mike and his grandma.  She hadn't been feeling well and was having some symptoms that at age 87 couldn't be ignored.  Despite her vehement protests, Mike convinced her a hospital visit was in order.  It's a good thing he did, because bright and early the next morning she had a pacemaker put in.  

With G comfortable in her room and knowing she was in good hands until morning, I headed home for bed. I hadn't been in bed long when Mike texted me to ask if I'd heard of the shooting several blocks away involving six policemen.  I quickly logged onto the local paper's website and discovered that only one block away from my grandparent's home, in a quiet middle class neighborhood, six policemen serving a search warrant had been shot, several of them were critically injured.  Rather than recount the entire scenario, here's a link to a story about what happened. http://www.standard.net

The next morning I woke up to the news that one officer, a husband and father to two young children, had died from his injuries.  I headed to the hospital to see G after her surgery.  When I arrived, the parking lot was filled with law enforcement vehicles.  The ICU unit was on lockdown, and officers were gathered there holding vigil for the critically injured men.  

In G's room we turned on the TV to watch a press conference.  I listened and watched as the events of the night before were recapped and the death of the officer was reported.  It was a sad, sobering morning.  I watched hardened law enforcement officers, some of whom I know personally, weep in front of the cameras.  It was the first full day in office for our new mayor, who is also a family friend.  It was a sad day in Ogden.  In a small town like Ogden there are many intertwined connections, so it's hard not to find someone personally impacted by this tragedy.  

On Thursday night a candlelight vigil was held at the downtown amphitheater so the community could come together to honor and mourn the officers involved.  I didn't go, but Mike's friend Erin captured some great shots that night.  Here's a link to her blog with some of the pictures she took at the scene, the press conference and the vigil. http://erinhooley.blogspot.com

Now, two full days after the shooting, details about what happened are emerging.  The assailant is still in the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.  Two of the officers remain hospitalized in critical condition.  Tomorrow the entire Ogden City Police Department will be given the day off to rest and recover.  Surrounding law enforcement agencies will step in to cover for them.  Messages of love, support and healing are everywhere.  It's gratifying to see how my town, often mocked for its gritty, rough, gang-infested, and poverty-stricken side, is pulling together showing what it means to be a community of loving, caring neighbors.  

It's also made me think about other things, such as how necessary and wise is it for law enforcement to barge into someone's house during the night.  So far, it appears the target of their search, the assailant, was growing marijuana in his house.  According to his parents, he's self-medicated with marijuana for several years now.  Obviously, I don't know all the details, but in a state with some of the highest prescription drug abuse numbers in the country, and in a city with a serious meth and heroin problem, I don't know why low-level marijuana growers are such a concern.  I'm not going to make a case one way or another here today, but I think all cities and law enforcement agencies bear great responsibility for how they use the military-style tactics and weapons so common in police work these days.  Entering someone's house during the night, fully armed, isn't usually going to result in a positive, peaceful outcome.  

I also have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the shooter.  What led him to the circumstances that resulted in such a tragedy?  There are many who have zero tolerance for any talk of compassion for someone who shoots a police officer.  There are those who would take great joy in seeing him put to death.  I'm not one of them.  Yesterday my cousin posted this on his Facebook page.  

"Some might find it inappropriate to focus on the assailant . . .

But when I think of Matthew Stewart, I wonder 'have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?' And I hope the answer is yes. Those thoughts cause me to want to lift others. I wonder if anyone lifted him."

Matthew Stewart is part of our community too.  He grew up here.  His heartbroken parents live not far from me.  He was in my cousin's class in school.  The only things I know about him are from what I've read in the paper.  From reading the comments on my cousin's Facebook page from other classmates, it appears that he was a quiet boy, not well remembered, someone that was occasionally picked on.  Reading the comments makes me cry.  I don't know Matthew Stewart at all.  But I do know that people who are loved, accepted, listened to, understood and respected don't end up doing drugs as a form of self-medication and shooting intruders with an automatic weapon.  What happened in his life that brought him to such a place?  We may never know.  

The events of Wednesday evening are tragic for every person involved. The entire community has been affected.  I grieve for the families that have been forever changed. The children who lost their father. The wife who is a now a widow. The other wives who have husbands in critical condition. The officers traumatized by seeing one of their own gunned down.  I also grieve for Matthew Stewart and his family.  They too have lost a son and a brother.  He will probably never see freedom again.  Mostly though, I'm just sad.  Sad that we live in a world that allows people to become so lost that they end up alone, feeling their only defense is a gun.  


  1. Keicha,
    It seems that I have gotten to know you better through your blog and FB postings and I am really surprised that at most times we agree on most subjects. Although I am vvery saddened about the death of the young officer I am equally saddened by what will happen to the assailant and his family. Are friends and neighbors reaching out to them? I hope so. Chandra

  2. Keicha, this was beautifully written and left me with so many thoughts. The neighborhood where this took place is the center of the Christiansen activities and has been since before I joined the family in 1966. You were brought home from the hospital to this peaceful neighborhood when you were born. We only lived about a block and a half away, just around the corner from your grandparents. Never would we have thought that such a tragedy would take place so close to home.

    Ogden is so connected. Even now, after I've been gone for 30 years, I know so many. Mike, the new mayor, has my support and respect. One of the officers that was critically injured lives in our family home in North Ogden, another is a cousin to our dear neighbor, and the assailant went to school with your cousin. Relationships abound.

    Unfortunately, there are no answers on why a young man turns to drugs and guns. I would guess PTSD and/other mental illness. In the end, many lives are forever changed by a tragic event that seems did not have to happen. My heart goes out to all who have been touched by this. My prayers are with them and with their families.

  3. This is so very sad. It seems, as you said, it didn't need to end up this way. So many lives have been changed by this event. I didn't know anything about it and I am saddened to learn of it.


Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I appreciate your feedback.