April 24, 2014

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Seattle patrolman kills suspect in officers’ slayings; 4 people arrested for helping him flee

SEATTLE — The man suspected of gunning down four police officers in a suburban coffee shop was shot and killed by a lone Seattle patrol officer investigating a stolen car early Tuesday, a sheriff’s spokesman said. Four other people were arrested for allegedly helping the suspect elude authorities during a massive two-day manhunt.

A Seattle police officer came across the stolen car in a working-class south Seattle neighborhood about 2:45 a.m., Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said. The officer approached the car, then detected movement behind him, recognized the suspect Maurice Clemmons and ordered him to show his hands and stop.

“He wouldn’t stop,” Pugel said. “The officer fired several rounds, took the person into custody.”

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Clemmons had a serious gunshot wound from one of the four officers killed in the coffee-shop shooting. He has since died from his injuries, Pugel said. Clemmons was carrying a handgun that had belonged one of the slain officers, Pugel said.
Police planned to arrest more people who helped Clemmons.

“We expect to have maybe six or seven people in custody by the day’s end,” said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County sheriff. “Some are friends, some are acquaintances, some are partners in crime, some are relatives. Now they’re all partners in crime.”

Troyer didn’t immediately give the names of the four people already arrested on suspicion of rendering criminal assistance. On Monday, officers detained a sister of Clemmons who they think treated the suspect’s gunshot wound.

“We believe she drove him up to Seattle and bandaged him up,” Troyer said.

Authorities say Clemmons, 37, singled out the Lakewood officers and spared employees and other customers at a coffee shop Sunday morning in Parkland, a Tacoma suburb about 35 miles south of Seattle. He then fled, but not before he was apparently shot in the torso by one of the dying officers.

“I’m surprised that he managed to get away,” Troyer said. “The officer did a good job in Lakewood.”

Killed were Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and Officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42.

A couple dozen police officers milled around at the scene where Clemmons was apparently shot, shaking hands and patting each other on the back later this morning.

Police said they aren’t sure what prompted Clemmons to shoot the officers. Clemmons was described as increasingly erratic in the past few months and had been arrested earlier this year on charges that he punched a sheriff’s deputy in the face.

Troyer told the Tacoma News-Tribune that Clemmons indicated the night before the shooting “that he was going to shoot police and watch the news.”

Police surrounded a house in a Seattle neighborhood late Sunday following a tip Clemmons had been dropped off there. After an all-night siege, a SWAT team entered the home and found it empty. But police said Clemmons had been there.

Police frantically chased leads on Monday, searching multiple spots in the Seattle and Tacoma area and at one point cordoning off a park where people thought they saw Clemmons.

Authorities found a handgun carried by the killer, along with a pickup truck belonging to the suspect with blood stains inside. They posted a $125,000 reward for information leading to Clemmons’ arrest and alerted hospitals to be on the lookout for a man seeking treatment for gunshot wounds.

“We need to get him into custody and we need to end this,” Troyer said Monday night.

Authorities in two states were criticized amid revelations that Clemmons was allowed to walk the streets despite a teenage crime spree in Arkansas that landed him an 108-year prison sentence. He was released early after then-Gov. Mike Huckabee commuted his sentence.

Huckabee cited Clemmons’ youth in granting the request. But Clemmons quickly reverted to his criminal past, violated his parole and was returned to prison. He was released again in 2004.

“This guy should have never been on the street,” said Brian D. Wurts, president of the police union in Lakewood. “Our elected officials need to find out why these people are out.”

Huckabee said on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night that Clemmons was allowed back on the street because prosecutors failed to file paperwork in time.

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, whose office opposed Clemmons’ parole in 2000 and 2004, said Huckabee’s comments were “red herrings.”

“My word to Mr. Huckabee is man up and own what you did,” Jegley said.

Clemmons was charged in Washington state earlier this year with assaulting a police officer and raping a child, and investigators in the sex case said he was motivated by visions that he was Jesus Christ and that the world was on the verge of the apocalypse.

But he was released from jail after posting bail with the assistance of Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

Documents related to those charges indicate a volatile personality. In one instance, he is accused of gathering his wife and young relatives and forcing them to undress.

“The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus,” a Pierce County sheriff’s report said.