Dead Tacoma cop-killing suspect was holding victim's gun

The News TribuneDecember 1, 2009 

A Seattle police officer checking out an unoccupied stolen vehicle shot and killed the suspect in the murders of four Lakewood, Wash., police officers Tuesday morning in the Rainier Valley of Seattle.

Maurice Clemmons, 37, was killed about 2:45 a.m. in the 4400 block of South Kenyon Street in South Seattle.

He was holding a gun that belonged to one of the four Lakewood police officers killed Sunday, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

“We’re very lucky we don’t have a dead police officer from Seattle,” Troyer said. “This could have very easily turned out totally different.”

Clemmons had been wounded before the fatal encounter and it appeared he had tried to get some medical aid for the wound, which was inflicted by one of the Lakewood officers.

In addition, four people – including a suspected getaway driver – were arrested overnight on suspicion of helping move and hide Clemmons, Troyer said. They were booked into the Pierce County Jail on rendering criminal assistance.

“We’ll look for more people to arrest today,” Troyer said. Authorities gave this account of Clemmons’ death:

The officer, whose name has not been released, spotted an Acura Integra that had been reported stolen less than an hour earlier. It was running and the hood was up but no one was inside.

The officer, a four-year Seattle police veteran, discovered the Integra was stolen. He called in his location and started working on paperwork for the recovered stolen car while sitting in his patrol car. As the officer investigated, he felt a presence behind him.

The officer turned and saw a man walking behind the patrol car. The man was approaching on the driver's side, police reported. The officer got out of his car and ordered the man to stop and show his hands, police reported.

The officer has told investigators he immediately recognized the approaching person as Clemmons from the law enforcement bulletins.

The man did not comply with the officer's order. As the officer drew his weapon, Clemmons "reached into his waist area and moved," a Seattle police press release states. The officer again ordered him to stop and, when he did not, shot several times, striking Clemmons at least twice.

Clemmons went down near some busheds. He died at the scene of his wounds. Investigators found a gun in his front pocket. The officer was not killed.

Police do not believe Clemmons was at a house in the area he was killed. The Seattle officer, who has prior law enforcement and military experience, has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure. His actions will be reviewed by a firearms review board, which will determine whether the shooting was within department guidelines.

Clemmons was the prime suspect in the fatal shooting Sunday of four Lakewood police officers. Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Tina Griswold, 40, Ronald Owens, 37, and Greg Richards, 42, were shot and killed Sunday in the Forza Coffee Co. in Parkland.

The families of the slain officers have been notified of Clemmons’ death.

Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar, who was at the Seattle scene, thanked his colleagues in law enforcement for their work on the case.

“I had all the confidence in the world in the Sheriff’s Department,” said Farrar, who worked for the Sheriff’s Department before joining the Lakewood force as a lieutenant when the agency formed.

“We can close the page on this.”

By the end of the day up to six arrests could be made in connection with the case, Troyer said.

Law enforcement agencies had been searching homes and locating and rounding up relatives and friends of Clemmons in Tacoma, Seattle, Renton and elsewhere in the Puget Sound since Sunday.

Deputies have arrested a man suspected of driving Clemmons away from the shooting scene, Troyer said. He was being interviewed by investigators.

Troyer said he didn’t know whether the driver knew what was going on or if Clemmons had told the driver what he was going to do at the coffee shop.

The friends and families of Clemmons who’ve been arrested are suspected of trying to get him medical aid and shelter. They gave Clemmons money, food and cell phones, Troyer said.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said his office is “working full speed” on those who’ve been arrested on suspicion of helping Clemmons.

“What we are looking at this morning is anyone who helped the criminal,” Lindquist said. “You help a criminal, you become a criminal and we are going to prosecute you like a criminal.”

The motive for Sunday’s shooting was unknown.

Authorities said they determined Clemmons knew he was angry about being incarcerated and told friends to watch the news because he was going to kill officers. They have no indication Clemmons knew the officers’ he killed.

Troyer said the wound Clemmons suffered Sunday was serious.

“He was shot dead center,” Troyer said, pointing to his torso. “He managed to continue running.”

To read the complete article, visit www.thenewstribune.com.

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