Trial begins for 4 suspects in officer slayings

November 9, 2010 

Deputy prosecutor Stephen Penner on Monday reminded a Pierce County jury it was nearly a year ago that a gunman shot four Lakewood police officers to death - an occasion he said was of a kind where people remembered where they were when they heard the news.

Penner reminded jurors of the fear that permeated the community as the shooter, Maurice Clemmons, remained on the loose for more than 40 hours after the shooting before being killed by a Seattle police officer.

He also reminded them that many people were in disbelief when they learned someone was helping Clemmons as he fled an army of law enforcement officers intent on tracking him down.

“We all wondered who would help this guy?” Penner said during his opening statement in the trial of four associates and relatives accused of aiding Clemmons in the aftermath of the massacre inside the Parkland Forza coffee shop.

“The answer is these defendants.”

Prosecutors have charged Clemmons’ half brother, Rickey Hinton, 47; Eddie Lee Davis, 21; Douglas Edward Davis, 23; and Letrecia Nelson, 53; with various counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping Clemmons after the Nov. 29 shooting. The Davises and Nelson also face weapons charges.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors contend the four knew Clemmons had shot Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens on Nov. 29 but helped him anyway.

Penner said Nelson, Clemmons’ aunt, told her daughter, “It ain’t right, but it’s family.”

Attorneys for Hinton and Douglas Davis said during their opening statements that it’s wrong to portray their clients as cop haters who intended to delay Clemmons’ capture.

Hinton is accused of providing keys to a car used to carry Clemmons out of Tacoma after the shooting, deleting calls from Clemmons from his cell phone and lying to police.

Douglas Davis is accused of helping to drive Clemmons out of Tacoma and providing other aid.

Hinton’s attorney, Philip Thornton, told jurors his client loved Clemmons but had become concerned about his mental health in the months before the massacre and wanted nothing to do with him when he came home the morning of Nov. 29 claiming to have been shot.

Hinton provided keys to a car but didn’t know Clemmons had killed anybody when he did so, Thornton said.

Douglas Davis’ attorney, Kent Underwood, portrayed his client as a hanger-on who feared Clemmons.

“Douglas Davis was present, and that was it,” Underwood said of his client’s actions after the shooting. “He knew if he denied Maurice Clemmons anything he wanted, he would be next.”

His client, too, noticed a deterioration in Clemmons’ mental health in the months before the shooting, the defense attorney said.

“Maurice Clemmons ran through the neighborhood naked,” Underwood said.

Attorneys for Eddie Davis and Letrecia Nelson did not make opening statements Monday. They reserved their right to make statements when they begin the defense case later in the trial.

Testimony is expected to take a month or more.

Witnesses Monday afternoon included Renninger’s widow, Kim.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

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