Witness to fatal shootings says police 'protected us'

A barista who was inside a Parkland coffee shop Nov. 29 when four Lakewood police officers were killed says she thinks about that morning every day.

“I saw some pretty bad things,” the 20-year-old barista, who wanted to be identified only as Sara, said in an interview Thursday with KOMO-TV. “I think about it daily, but I have peace. The Lord gives me peace, and I’m able to handle it.”

Sara recalled the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, when police Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens were gunned down in the Forza Coffee Co. shop, 11401 S. Steele St., as they prepared for their shifts.

Sara said she was making a drink for Griswold when Maurice Clemmons, the man who killed the four, entered.

“I greeted him and said ‘hi’ and so I was standing right in front of the door – I saw everything that happened before I turned around and ran out the door,” Sara said.

Clemmons walked up to the tables and reached into his jacket, she said.

“He could have been pulling out his wallet, so I really wasn’t too alarmed,” Sara recalled. “Looked down, was making a latte, heard a gunshot and looked back up.”

Sara declined to say what she saw next “for the privacy of the families and for my own feelings.”

Sara and another barista grabbed their keys and ran from the shop. As they drove away, she said, she could see one of the officers struggling with Clemmons near the front door. The two baristas drove to a nearby convenience store and called 911. Sara said she didn’t know the four officers had been killed until hours later.

A Seattle police officer shot and killed Clemmons two days later.

On Thursday, Sara helped present a check for $114,000 – money raised by Forza and its customers – to the president of the Lakewood police union. The money will go into an educational trust fund for the families of the four officers. Sara said she wished the check was for 100 times more.

“They took the fall that day, and we were able to get out,” she said. “They really protected us.”

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268