A Pierce County jury began deliberations Thursday in the trial of the only person charged with murder in the 2009 shooting deaths of four Lakewood police officers at a Parkland coffee shop.
During closing arguments earlier in the day, prosecutors painted Dorcus Allen as a willing participant in the deaths of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Gregory Richards.
Deputy prosecutors Stephen Penner and Phil Sorensen told jurors there is no doubt Allen, 40, knew what Maurice Clemmons intended to do when Allen drove Clemmons to and from the vicinity of the coffee shop Nov. 29, 2009.
Clemmons, 37, gunned down the four officers in the shop, sparking an intense manhunt that ended when a Seattle police officer shot him dead Dec. 1.
Clemmons had been talking to relatives and friends, including Allen, for months about killing officers, Penner said.
“He knew,” the deputy prosecutor told the jury. “How could he not know?”
Mary K. High, one of Allen’s two attorneys, countered that her client had no idea Clemmons planned to kill cops that Sunday morning. He had been talking crazy for months, asserting he was Jesus Christ and could fly, among other things, High said.
The stakes are high for Allen, who faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of four counts of aggravated first-degree murder, the state’s highest crime.
Allen also had been charged with four counts of second-degree murder in the case, but Superior Court Judge Frederick Fleming ordered those counts dismissed Wednesday.
The move came after prosecutors objected to Fleming’s suggestion that jurors be allowed to consider convicting Allen of even lesser charges under that theory of the case, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Thursday.
Jurors began hearing testimony nearly a month ago.
The defense rested last week without calling Allen to the stand, although the jury heard a recording of him being interrogated by a Pierce County sheriff’s detective not long after his arrest.
The lawyers delivered their closing arguments to a packed courtroom.
It took Penner less than 45 minutes to outline his case.
Allen knew Clemmons hated cops and had been talking about killing them, Penner told the jury.
Three days before the shootings, Allen attended a Thanksgiving dinner where Clemmons reasserted his desire to murder police, the deputy prosecutor said. This time, Clemmons added he wanted to take out school children and others as well, Penner told the jury.
Clemmons even laid out his plan: He’d cut off an ankle monitor that let his bail bond company track his movements, and, when a probation officer or police officer came to investigate, “boom,” Penner said.
When Clemmons’ cousin asked him to stop talking that way, Allen shushed her, the deputy prosecutor said.
“We don’t know what the man’s been through,” Penner quoted Allen as saying that night.
Two days later, Allen admitted to detectives, he saw Clemmons’ ankle monitor, the strap sliced through, at the house where Allen lived with Clemmons’ sister.
On the morning of the murders, Allen twice drove Clemmons past a coffee shop where the officers were gathered for breakfast, Penner said. “They were casing the place,” he said.
Minutes later, Allen parked the truck at a nearby car wash and waited for Clemmons, Penner said.
Witnesses testified they saw a man resembling Allen “fake washing” a pickup that morning, the deputy prosecutor said.
Allen then drove Clemmons away from the scene, dropped him off at his home, dumped the truck at a grocery store and took a bus home, Penner said.
“He wasn’t just the getaway driver,” he said. “He was the get-him-there driver, the drop-him-off driver and the dump-the-truck driver.”
Defense attorney High then took her turn.
She reminded jurors of testimony they’d heard from other witnesses about Clemmons’ declining mental health and delusions.
Prosecutors presented no evidence that Clemmons and Allen sat down together to hatch a plan to kill police, High argued.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Allen shared Maurice Clemmons’ hatred for law enforcement,” she said. “Mr. Allen never endorsed any plan.”
Allen truly thought he was going to wash a pickup that morning as Clemmons had requested, High continued.
She pointed out Allen did not wait in the truck with the motor running while parked at the car wash. Instead, he strolled across the street to buy a cigar at a convenience store where other people were shopping, she said.
He was just beginning to wash the truck when Clemmons returned and demanded they leave, High argued.
She reminded jurors that at least one witness said Allen seemed surprised when Clemmons returned to the car wash.
“What does this suggest? Getaway driver, or person washing the truck?” High said.
Allen’s actions after the shooting – including taking a Pierce Transit bus home – also suggest he did not know Clemmons intended to kill the officers, she said.
“Here’s the getaway driver with no exit plan, no vehicle of his own,” High said. “He has to take the city bus home.”