A Utah man who alleges he killed a police officer serving a “knock and announce” warrant because he thought armed assailants had kicked in his door to rob him will likely not be able to use a “defense of habitation,” legal experts say.
Mathew David Stewart is on trial for a gun battle that erupted in his home during a SWAT raid conducted by a local police “strike force.” According to reports from The Salt Lake Tribune, the raid resulted after Stewart’s ex-girlfriend called a local “tip-a-cop” hotline to report that the man had a marijuana-growing operation in his basement. It is reported that she “could not recall” whether she also told the officer that Stewart was against government intrusion and “if the police ever came to his house he would go out shooting.”
From The Salt Lake Tribune:
Agents testified that they went to Stewart’s home at around 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 4 and announced themselves before breaking through the door and entering. The agents testified they were all wearing some sort of police identifier, whether it was a jacket with the word “police” written in bold, a bulletproof vest with “police” printed on it, or a fleece vest with police insignia embroidered on the chest.
Stewart told the paper, however, that he believed he was the victim of a home invasion. “When you’re convinced that you are getting robbed and most likely killed by a group of armed men, your instincts kick in,” he said.
His defense attorneys have also questioned whether the agents properly identified themselves as police and were easily recognizable as agents of the State because many of them wear long hair and beards.
Stewart allegedly told an investigator that he had armed himself when he heard someone enter his home. He allegedly said he pointed his gun around the corner of his bedroom hallway, at which point he was met with gunfire. The man alleges that he then fired the weapon.
The SWAT team members, however, allege that Stewart fired first. He remains charged with aggravated murder, seven first-degree felony counts of attempted aggravated murder and one second-degree felony count related to alleged marijuana cultivation stemming from the reported finding of 16 plants and a bag of marijuana in his basement.