'I hope they understand I didn't do this'

Rickey Hinton left the Pierce County Jail on Monday night with a heavy heart and a plastic bag full of belongings he'd accumulated during the year he spent locked up.

Hours after being acquitted of helping cop killer Maurice Clemmons escape, Hinton, 47, was granted his freedom and stepped into the cool night air.

He was eager to go home and play with his grandchildren but wanted to give a message to the families of four Lakewood officers gunned down by his brother last year.

“I hope they understand I didn’t do this, I didn’t want this,” Hinton said.

Prosecutors accused Hinton of providing Clemmons with car keys to leave Pierce County, deleting evidence on his cell phone and later lying to police.

Defense attorneys argued that Hinton gave Clemmons the keys just to get rid of him and that he deleted his half brother’s phone number because he sensed Clemmons was in trouble and didn’t want further contact with him.

Hinton said he has a lot to say about the case but wants to save it for another day.

Instead, he talked about the losses caused by the Nov. 29, 2009, shootings at a Parkland coffee shop and his desire to live a normal life.

“I only have love, and I want to be a positive person in the world,” Hinton said. “I’m not going to let this situation turn me into an animal because I wasn’t one when I came in.”

He declined to comment on whether family members should have assisted Clemmons after the shootings, but did say his brother “was crazy” and the entire episode was “a horrible, horrible event.”

Hinton said he feels vindicated because he did nothing wrong and is more convinced than ever that prayer works.

In fact, he recommended prayer to the three other defendants, including his aunt and cousin, who were found guilty of various charges and face maximum sentences.

When Hinton saw them after the jury delivered its verdicts Monday, Hinton said he told them “Keep your head up and believe in God like I did.”

He repeatedly offered condolences to the families of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens.

“I think about them a lot,” Hinton said. “I shed a tear each time.”

He said it was particularly hard to listen to children testifying during the trial because he is a father.

Even though Hinton doesn’t believe he did anything wrong, he asked the officers’ families to forgive him if they think he has.

“I’m going to continue to be a good man and a good person and continue with my life,” he said.

Hinton then got into a sport utility vehicle and hugged the woman who’d come to pick him up.