Suspect in ambush of four officers killed by Seattle Police

December 07, 2009
SEATTLE - The man suspected of gunning down four police officers in a suburban coffee shop was shot and killed by a lone patrolman investigating a stolen car early Tuesday. Four people were arrested for allegedly helping the suspect elude authorities during a massive two-day manhunt. Maurice Clemmons was carrying a handgun he took from one of the dead officers when a Seattle policeman recognized him near a stolen car in a working-class south Seattle neighbourhood about 2:45 a.m., Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said.

SEATTLE - The man suspected of gunning down four police officers in a suburban coffee shop was shot and killed by a lone patrolman investigating a stolen car early Tuesday. Four people were arrested for allegedly helping the suspect elude authorities during a massive two-day manhunt.

Maurice Clemmons was carrying a handgun he took from one of the dead officers when a Seattle policeman recognized him near a stolen car in a working-class south Seattle neighbourhood about 2:45 a.m., Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said.

The vehicle was running but unoccupied when the officer pulled up, radioed in the licence plate number and realized the car was stolen, Pugel said.

The officer saw something moving, got out of his car, saw Clemmons and ordered him to show his hands and stop.

"He wouldn't stop,'' Pugel said. "The officer fired several rounds.''

Clemmons also had sustained a serious gunshot wound from one of the four officers killed in the coffee-shop shooting.

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.''

Three people were booked into the Pierce County Jail on Monday and early Tuesday for investigation of rendering criminal assistance on four counts of first-degree murder.

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 the coffee shop Sunday morning in Parkland, a Tacoma suburb about 55 kilometres south of Seattle. He then fled, but not before one of the dying officers apparently shot him in the torso.

"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.

The officer who shot Clemmons was not injured, Pugel said.

Police said they aren't sure what prompted Clemmons to shoot the four officers, who were in uniform and working on paperwork at the coffee shop just two blocks outside their jurisdiction.

"The only motive that we have is he decided he was going to go kill police officers,'' Troyer said. He said Clemmons talked the night before the shooting about killing a group of cops and watching the news.

Police believe Clemmons chose the coffee shop because it was frequented by police officers from various agencies.

"We do not believe that the Lakewood officers were actually targeted other than that they were police officers in that location at the time where he knew he could find police officers.''

Police surrounded a house in a Seattle neighbourhood 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. They found a handgun along with a pickup truck belonging to the suspect with blood stains inside, and alerted hospitals to be on the lookout for a man seeking treatment for gunshot wounds.

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.''

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.

A psychological evaluation conducted in October found he was a risk to public safety, but not a bad enough risk to justify committing him, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported.

The confidential report acquired by the newspaper was ordered by a Pierce County Superior Court judge to determine whether Clemmons was competent to stand trial on the rape and assault charges. He was found competent and was released from jail after posting bail with the assistance of Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

At the time of his arrest, he allegedly made "religiously-themed comments, told the officer President Obama and Lebron James are his brothers, Oprah (Winfrey) is his sister and referred to himself as 'the beast,''' according to the evaluation.

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