A frightened man talks fast.
As he sat in an interview room with a Pierce County sheriff’s detective, unraveling the shooting deaths of four Lakewood police officers, Dorcus Dewayne Allen was frightened. His words gushed like water from a burst pipe.
“You’re a fast talker,” detective Sgt. Tim Kobel told him on Dec. 1, 2009.
“I’m scared, man!” Allen replied. “I didn’t know nothing. Two or three days ago, I didn’t know this was gonna be my next week, man.”
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The recorded exchange played Wednesday in Pierce County Superior Court, where Allen, 40, is on trial for aggravated first-degree murder. He is the alleged getaway driver for cop-killer Maurice Clem-mons, who shot the four officers Nov. 29, 2009, and was wounded by one of them. After a region-wide manhunt, a Seattle police officer fatally shot Clemmons two days later.
Prosecutors contend Allen is guilty because he knew what Clemmons planned and helped him do it. Allen’s defense team argues there’s a difference between hearing Clemmons rant about killing cops and knowing he was going to do it that Sunday morning.
The recorded interview followed Allen’s arrest at a Federal Way hotel, where he’d holed up after the shootings. He told police he knew they’d be coming.
For prosecutors, the key point of the recording is Allen’s changing story.
At first, he denied driving Clemmons to an area near the Forza coffee shop in Parkland where the shooting took place. He said Clem-mons called him early that morning, but Allen initially claimed he went back to bed.
On the recording, Kobel, soft-spoken, let Allen chatter for a long time before stopping him.
“OK, Dorcus, there’s a couple things here that I want to talk to you about,” the detective said. “To be real honest with you, I know that (Clemmons) called you Sunday morning, and I know he came over and picked you up, and I know you were over at the car wash there.”
“Yeah,” Allen said.
“Are you afraid to tell me that?”
“Man,” Allen said, and paused. “Man, I had no (expletive) – I had nothing to do with this man. You understand what I’m saying?”
Several times, Kobel said, “I’m not trying to put this on you,” at one point adding, “If I was trying to put this on you, I’d be coming down like a ton of bricks.”
“I understand what you saying, you not trying to put this on me,” Allen replied. “But there ain’t no way in hell you’re not trying to implicate people in this, man.”
“I am not trying to implicate you or put anything on you,” Kobel said. “I do know you have told me some things that are not true. You’re trying to distance yourself from this man who did a pretty heinous thing. He smoked four cops for no reason. When you avoid telling me that truth – then that makes you look bad.”
The recording lasted more than an hour. Jurors, attorneys, Allen and Judge Frederick Fleming turned pages of the transcript in unison as the voices of Kobel and Allen blared.
Gradually, a different version of the story unfolded.
Clemmons had called Allen early that Sunday and told Allen to pick him up so they could wash the truck. The truck was used for business, for making money on odd jobs: lawns and small-scale labor.
Allen was relieved when Clemmons talked of washing the truck. That meant making money, getting away from the crazy stuff. Maurice had been claiming he was Jesus Christ.
The recording is one of the strongest cards for prosecutors. Apart from Allen’s changing story, it cements details the defense can’t avoid, delivered in Allen’s words, a stack of foreknowledge: Clemmons talked about killing police. Clem-mons had a vendetta against Pierce County and claimed deputies had “kidnapped” him by returning him to jail in the summer of 2009.
Clemmons was a bully, Allen said. Clemmons had cut off the GPS ankle bracelet the bail company had required him to wear. He talked of going to war with the police – his friends and family warned him against it. Allen had stayed away from him for two days.
But Allen worked for Clemmons, depended on him for jobs, housing. On that morning, when Clem-mons called and told Allen to wash the truck, he agreed.
Those details emerged during the interview. The two had driven to the car wash near the coffee shop. Allen said Clemmons wasn’t talking about being Jesus that day, and he wasn’t talking about killing cops.
Allen had pulled into the car wash, walked across the street to get change for the sprayer, bought himself a Black and Mild cigar. Maurice had walked away.
“I ain’t thinking nothing about it,” Allen said. “I’m not thinking, man, this man’s gonna go on no killing spree. He didn’t tell me he was gonna go on no killing spree.”
Clemmons had returned abruptly, telling him to drive. Allen said he saw blood on his friend’s hand, and the handle of a gun he hadn’t noticed before. Clemmons told him to drive. Allen asked what was up.
“Just drive,” Clemmons said.
“He ain’t saying I been shot, he ain’t saying nothing, you know what I’m talking about?”
Allen claimed he sensed trouble, stepped out of the truck at the next convenient intersection and took a bus back home.
“I didn’t have no knowledge of what this man done – he pulled off and he didn’t say nothing,” Allen said.