Man suspected of driving for killer jailed

Ex-Convict: He acted as accomplice in Arkansas murders

December 3, 2009 

The man suspected of driving Maurice Clemmons away from the coffee shop where he killed four Lakewood police officers served time in an Arkansas prison after being convicted as an accomplice in a double murder there 19 years ago.

Pierce County prosecutors on Wednesday charged Darcus D. Allen, 37, with being a fugitive from justice and asked a judge to order him held without bail on an arrest warrant from Arkansas, where he is wanted on charges of robbery, theft and probation violations.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Larkin granted the request and ordered Allen to appear in court Dec. 30.

“We’ll see what the state of Arkansas is going to do between now and then,” Larkin told Allen.

That buys Pierce County sheriff’s detectives time to investigate Allen’s role in Sunday’s killings of Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Lisa Griswold, 40, Greg Richards, 42, and Ronald Owens, 37.

Richards shot Clemmons once before being fatally wounded.

Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said investigators might request murder charges against Allen if they can prove he knew what Clemmons intended to do Sunday at the Forza Coffee Co. shop in Parkland.

A Seattle police officer shot Clemmons, 37, to death early Tuesday after checking on a stolen car the fugitive was driving.

Prosecutor Mark Lindquist on Wednesday would not directly address the charges he is considering against Allen in the police shooting but said his office “will prosecute everyone involved in this murder to the greatest extent possible.”

Two detectives interviewed Allen on Tuesday. He initially denied any knowledge of the shootings or having seen Clemmons recently, according to court papers. Allen later changed his account.

He told the detectives that Clemmons woke him about 7:30 a.m. Sunday and that he drove Clemmons to a car wash not far from the coffee shop. Allen said he saw police cars parked outside the shop, the documents state.

He said he drove around a bit and bought a cigar before returning to the car wash. Clemmons showed up not long after with a gunshot wound, the documents say Allen told the detectives.

“Allen said he did not know what happened, but he drove away from the car wash,” the affidavit states. “Allen said he then decided he ‘wanted no part of this,’ and he stopped at the first traffic light and bailed out of the truck.”

Prosecutors wrote that that part of his story is “disputed by other evidence,” and another witness told investigators that Allen was at a Thanksgiving Day dinner where Clemmons threatened to kill police, schoolchildren and others.

As he left court Wednesday, Allen asked news reporters to help him.

In 1990, he was a passenger in a car used to drive away from a fatal liquor store robbery in Little Rock, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper reported in a January 1991 article. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case.

Allen told a judge at his plea bargain “that he was aware that a robbery was planned at the time (a co-defendant) drove to the liquor store and that he shared in the proceeds of the crime,” the Arkansas newspaper reported.

“He said he had been drinking all day but knew (co-defendants) had guns when they left the car and was sober enough to leave if he had chosen to.”

Allen was sentenced to serve 25 years. He entered the state prison system Jan. 14, 1991, and became eligible for parole July 9, 2000, according to Dina Tyler, spokeswoman for the Arkansas state Department of Corrections.

Allen sought parole each year he was eligible. The parole board turned him down each year until 2005. He was paroled Dec. 20, 2005, and discharged from his sentence May 4, 2006.

While incarcerated, he was convicted of second-degree battery on a corrections officer and sentenced Oct. 1, 1999, to 30 months in custody. That time was folded into the prison term for the murder convictions, Tyler said.

Allen and Clemmons served sentences in the Arkansas prison system at the same time. They spent as long as a month together in the 1990s in the same open barracks at the Cummins Unit and the Tucker Unit of the Arkansas prison system.

The open barracks are much like military barracks. Depending on the year and the prison, the barracks housed between 50 and 100 inmates.

Also Wednesday, Larkin ordered two women suspected of helping Clemmons after the shooting jailed without charges until Friday while detectives continue to investigate them.

The judge set bail for Quiana M. Williams, 26, and Letreica Nelson, 52, at $500,000 apiece. Nelson is Clemmons’ aunt.

Nelson helped clean Clemmons’ wound shortly after the shooting, demanded that another woman living in her house give him money and access to a car and later lied to police, according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors.

She allegedly told her housemate that helping Clemmons, “ain’t right, but family’s more important,” the affidavit states.

Prosecutors wrote that Williams, who claimed to be a friend of Clemmons, took the killer to her home in Seattle after he left his aunt’s home Sunday, helped treat his wounds and let him do laundry.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268

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