Ogden police criticized over warrant served at wrong house

Posted at 8:52 PM, Jan 08, 2013

OGDEN, Utah -- The city's police department was blasted over officers serving an arrest warrant with guns drawn at the wrong house.

During Tuesday night's city council meeting, dozens of people criticized the police department's handling of the issue, and its tactics while serving warrants in general. Some urged the council to scrutinize how police do their jobs, claiming officers' actions are putting innocent people in danger.

"I feel very lucky to be standing here today. I feel lucky to be hugging my kids in the morning, to have my husband -- because it could have turned way worse than it should," said Melanie Hill, whose home police served the warrant on.

Speaking the council on Tuesday night, she said her family is still traumatized by the events of Dec. 20. At 2:30 a.m., the family was awakened by someone banging on their door. Eric Hill said he didn't know who it was, and grabbed a baseball bat to protect himself. He opened the door to find officers with guns drawn.

Hill said he was handcuffed until police realized they were looking for a suspect who didn't live there. The suspect had put Hill's address down on some paperwork, he said.

Outside the city council chambers on Tuesday, Hill told FOX 13 police didn't do enough intelligence gathering.

"The warrant was issued at 1 a.m., they came to my house at 2:30. 'Cowboy up and let's go' is what it was," he said.

Patrick Powers of the Utah Liberty Institute said the police department's actions put the officers in danger as well.

"An innocent homeowner, who has absolutely no idea what is going on, has not been guilty of any crime, and has no reason to believe the people at the door at 2:30 in the morning would be police officers," he told the council.

One after another, people stood to criticize the Ogden Police Department.

"The warrants could have been served in a way that did not involve militarized, heavily armed home invasions," said one man.

The crowd pointed to other recent examples of police actions while serving warrants: A 2010 drug warrant at a home in Roy, where Todd Blair was shot and killed while wielding a golf club, and the January 2012 shooting at an Ogden home where Agent Jared Francom was killed and five other officers were wounded while serving a drug-related search warrant at the home of Matthew David Stewart.

Stewart is facing aggravated murder and attempted murder charges, which could get him the death penalty, if convicted. Stewart's parents also spoke to the council, criticizing police tactics.

"When government pushes too hard, the people push back," Stewart's mother, Sonja, told councilmembers.

After nearly an hour of criticism of the police force, members of the city council were silent. Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell thanked the crowd and promised it was being investigated.

"We take this very seriously," he said. "We're looking at how this works and what we can do to make improvements. Nobody wants to see these things happen."

Caldwell told FOX 13 on Monday he has requested an internal police investigation of the Dec. 20 incident on his desk by the end of the week. If necessary, he said, he would seek an outside investigation.

Hill told FOX 13 on Tuesday night he was skeptical that the police investigation would be impartial. Asked if he was considering a lawsuit against police, Hill declined to comment, but said he would like to see changes instituted within the Ogden Police Department.
"I'd like to see a little more intelligence and intel, the police stepping in and doing the right thing," he said. "Not just what they want, because us as a community, we're suffering from it and it's not fair."