Suspected cop killer Maurice Clemmons' desperate flight from an army of law enforcement officers ended before dawn Tuesday when a lone policeman checking out a stolen car shot Clemmons to death on a quiet Seattle street.
The Seattle police officer’s actions concluded one of the largest and most intense manhunts in state history and brought some measure of relief to a region reeling from the massacre of four Lakewood police officers Sunday at a Parkland coffee shop.
“We are especially grateful for the tenacity and dedication of so many law enforcement agencies in tracking down and eliminating the threat this killer posed to the community,” Lakewood Mayor Douglas Richardson said after news of Clemmons’ death was announced.
“To echo the words of (Lakewood) Police Chief Bret Farrar, this only closes one chapter of what will be a long and difficult road for families, police and citizens in Lakewood and the region.”
Clemmons’ death came on the day Pierce County prosecutors were set to charge him with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of police Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Tina Griswold, 40, Ronald Owens, 37, and Greg Richards, 42.
A few hours after Clemmons’ death, Lakewood police officers escorted the bodies of their fallen colleagues from the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office to Mountain View Funeral Home, and Pierce County announced that a memorial will be held for the officers at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Tacoma Dome.
The veteran officers were attacked without warning about 8:15 a.m. as they gathered at a Forza Coffee Co. shop to do paperwork before their shift.
Richards, who saw his three colleagues killed, managed to fight with Clemmons, 37, and shoot him at least once before being killed at the shop’s front door, authorities said. Clemmons’ stomach was bandaged with cotton gauze and duct tape when he died, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
Richards’ sister-in-law told reporters Tuesday that all the dead officers were “people we all want to be like, people we all want to know.”
“These guys were heroes,” a tearful Melanie Burwell said. “They were heroes before this happened.”
FAMILY, FRIENDS AID SUSPECT
The motive for the attack remains unknown. Authorities said they determined that Clemmons was angry about being incarcerated recently and told friends to watch the news because he was going to kill police.
Law enforcement officers pursued Clemmons – a man with a criminal record and, according to court records, a propensity for violence – across two counties after the shooting at Forza.
He managed – allegedly with the help of friends and relatives – to stay a step ahead of the law.
Investigators arrested six relatives and friends – including a suspected getaway driver – late Monday and early Tuesday on suspicion of helping to move and hide Clemmons, Troyer said.
Police suspect them of giving him shelter, medical aid and food after the shooting.
Prosecutors on Tuesday charged two brothers – 20-year-old Eddie Lee Davis and 22-year-old Douglas Edward Davis – with first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping Clemmons. They pleaded not guilty. A third man – Clemmons’ half-brother Rickey Hinton – was ordered held for 72 hours as detectives continued to investigate. Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff ordered Hinton held in lieu of $2 million bail at the request of deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett.
A fourth man suspected of driving Clemmons away from Forza immediately after the shooting may face murder charges if investigators can find evidence he knew what Clemmons intended to do at the coffee shop, Troyer said. The News Tribune is not naming him because he has not yet appeared in court.
That man was convicted of taking part in a 1990 double murder in Arkansas and sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to public records. He was a passenger in a car used to drive away from the scene of a fatal liquor store robbery in Little Rock, according to news accounts.
He was eligible for parole in 2000, but it was unclear Tuesday exactly when he was released from prison in Arkansas.
More arrests were possible as detectives continued to unravel Clemmons’ movements since Sunday, Troyer added.
Clemmons’ luck ran out about 2:45 a.m. Tuesday in the 4400 block of South Kenyon Street in the southern part of Seattle.
Seattle police said one of their patrol officers came across an Acura Integra – reported stolen earlier in the night – parked in the middle of the street. The car’s engine was running and its hood was up, but no one was inside, police said.
The officer stopped his own car and was writing up the find when he saw someone walking behind his cruiser, police said.
The officer told investigators he immediately recognized the man approaching his door as Clemmons from bulletins broadcast to law enforcement agencies around the nation after the Parkland shooting.
The officer ordered the man to stop and show his hands, but he did not comply.
As the officer drew his weapon, Clemmons “reached into his waist area and moved,” a Seattle police news release stated. The officer again ordered him to stop and, when he did not, shot several times, striking Clemmons at least twice.
Clemmons died at the scene. The officer, whose name was not released, was not injured.
The officer, who served in the military and worked at another law enforcement agency before signing on with Seattle, was placed on paid administrative leave. That is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings. His actions will be reviewed by a firearms review board, which will determine whether the shooting was within department guidelines.
Ron Lewis, 59, woke up to the gunshots. The Acura had been parked in front of his next-door neighbor’s house.
“I just heard a bunch of gunshots. It was real loud – boom, boom, boom,” Lewis said. “I saw the guy laying there. About five minutes later, there were about 200 cops here.”
In Clemmons’ front pocket, investigators found a handgun that belonged to one of the Lakewood officers, Troyer said.
“We’re very lucky we don’t have a dead police officer from Seattle,” Troyer said.
Troyer credited “boots-on-the-ground-type police work” for the eventual location of Clemmons.
“He ran out of places to hide,” he said.
Word of Clemmons’ death spread quickly, with the families of the slain officers notified immediately.
Farrar, the Lakewood police chief, was at the Seattle scene and thanked his colleagues for their work on the case.
“I had all the confidence in the world in the (Pierce County) Sheriff’s Department,” said Farrar, who worked for the Sheriff’s Department before joining the Lakewood force. “We can close the page on this.”
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8277
News Tribune staff writers Debby Abe and Lewis Kamb contributed to this report.