Search for suspect in Lakewood police slayings

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by KING5.com and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on November 29, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 30 at 10:55 PM

4 officers killed in Parkland, WA

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SEATTLE, Wash. – A tense standoff with a suspect in the slaying of four Lakewood, Wash., police officers gunned down in a suburban coffee shop, continued at a Seattle house early Monday. The suspect is wounded and possibly dead, police said.

Police used a loudspeaker, flashbangs and what appeared to be tear gas on a building in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood early Monday where suspect Maurice Clemmons was believed to be located.

Clemmons, 37, was shot and wounded during the attack on the four officers Sunday morning, police said,  Police said he was apparently shot in the "trunk" of his body and that witnesses and people who have had contact with Clemmons say he had been trying to treat the wound himself. It was unclear what his condition was, or if he was even in the building.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas, including aggravated robbery and theft. He has also recently been arrested and charged in Pierce County for assault on a police officer and for rape of a child. After hours of calling Clemmons a "person of interest," Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer declared Clemmons a suspect early Monday.

Troyer confirmed early Monday that the gunman who killed the officers was wounded by one of them, saying one of the officers struggled out the door and fired his gun at the attacker.

"We are no longer using the word person of interest, he is a suspect," Troyer said. "We do believe that he has been shot and he has a gunshot wound and it occured during the incident and that one of the Lakewood police officers managed to shoot him."

Troyer said they've detained some people who helped Clemmons. "It was a long trail to get here. We had different people and different people that have helped him and other vehicles that have been used and tracking it all down, this is where we (were) led and we have determined that he has in fact been shot and that he is, in fact, our suspect. We are not looking for anybody else, he is not a person of interest, he's our suspect."

Troyer went on to say that medics are "standing by and we don't know how we're going to find him. He may be deceased from this gunshot wound, but that's yet to be determined."

Officers surrounding the house shone lights on the house and called out to Clemmons by name, saying: "Mr. Clemmons, I'd like to get you out of there safely. I can tell you this, we are not going away."  Authorities in the region have been seeking Clemmons in the Sunday morning shootings of four Lakewood officers, about 30 miles from the Seattle house.

There was no audible response from the house. Police spokesman Jeff Kappel had earlier said police weren't sure anyone was inside, and refused to comment on the negotiator's tactics.

Hours earlier, police cruisers surrounded streets in the neighborhood of 32nd Avenue and Yesler Way in the search for Clemmons. At that time, several law enforcement sources said they believed they had Clemmons pinned down in the neighborhood.

Traffic has been detoured for several blocks in each direction. Police say residents in the area should stay inside and lock their doors.

The four officers were with the 100-member police department of Lakewood, which adjoins the unincorporated area of Parkland, where the shootings took place. They are Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards 42.

The officers were in full uniform and wearing bulletproof vests, sitting in Forza coffee shop near 116th Street and Steele Street on the east side of McChord Air Force base at about 8:30 a.m.. They were preparing for their shift when the suspect walked in, went up to the counter as if to order coffee, then turned and opened fire.

Troyer called it an "ambush."

"They had marked police cars, marked uniforms, there were other people inside the facility, they weren't shot, wounded or hurt or even aimed at, just the police officers were," said Troyer.

It wasn't clear whether the officers even had time to draw their weapons to return fire, Troyer said.

"This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers," Troyer said.

"We have no motive at all," Troyer said. "I don't think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it."

Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. All are being interviewed by the Pierce County Sheriff's investigators.

"Some are in shock. They are very upset," Troyer said. "They are the ones who are going to put together for us how this happened."

The Forza Coffee Shop, part of a popular local chain, is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.

Forza Coffee issued a press release, saying their "prayers go out to the family and friends of these officers in the face of this horrific tragedy."

"The cold-blooded ambush that took place at the Steele Street Forza Coffee House in Parkland," the release said.

Video | Police shooting: Man who helped baristas


Video courtesy The Seattle Times

Forza said a donation area will be established at each coffee house.

"It is Forza's goal to help the families of those who lost their lives during this difficult holiday season, and into the new year as they struggle to reconstruct their lives in the year ahead," said Rich Jennings, Forza owner.

Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said "this is an example of the danger that police officers and deputy sheriffs and state troopers face every day."

"The person or people who did this not only harmed us they harmed the good that we can do in the community. They harmed the good that we work to do every day in the community," he said.

"We've lost people that we care about, we've lost people I'm sure the good people in the community care about as well," said Pastor.

Police later discovering a white pickup truck abandoned in a supermarket parking lot, matching the description of a possible getaway vehicle. That truck is registered to Clemmons.

Troyer said they are looking to see if there is any surveillance cameras that may have caught the suspect on video.

A $120,000 reward is being offered for information. Tiplines - for tips only  - are  (253) 591-5959 or (866) 977-2362.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said she was "shocked and horrified" by the killings.

"Our police put their lives on the line every day, and tragedies like this remind us of the risks they continually take to keep our communities safe," she said in a written statement. "My heart goes out to the family, friends and co-workers of these officers, as well as the entire law enforcement community."

The President of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild, Brian D. Wurts, issued a statement, calling the murders a "cold blooded assassination."

"As I write this I am numb. We were dealt a nasty blow, good men and women I have had the honor of knowing for years are senselessly gone. There is no way to comprehend it, to validate it, or to make sense of any of it. You cannot understand evil like this, as a community we must form a solid bond against criminals and hold them accountable. I know my members and can say with certainty that as a group we will remain professional and will continue to work to protect those of you we have taken an oath to protect. If you know a cop tell them how much you appreciate them, it truly keeps us going. Please pray for these officers and their families. All of them had significant others and children who are left behind," he said.

Wurts said  a benevolent account has been established for the families of the officers.

Send donations to LPIG Benevolent Fund at PO Box 99579 Lakewood, WA 98499.

"I will personally make sure it goes where it is intended. May God bless you four who are in a place so much better than this; you are some of the finest professionals I have ever known. God bless our community today," Wurtz said.

Editor's note: During the coverage of this developing story, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department has alleged that its investigation into the shootings was hampered by KING TV's news helicopter, which was flying over the Lakewood area. KING TV maintains that its aircraft was operating in compliance with FAA flight rules at the time and that the aircraft was moved from the area.

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