When Maurice Clemmons assassinated four Lakewood police officers last fall, he assaulted our community.

When Maurice Clemmons assassinated four Lakewood police officers last fall, he assaulted our community.

He left nine children without a parent and ignited fear across the Puget Sound.

When someone commits a shocking crime — a McVeigh or a Manson — people want to know: What was he thinking?

Maurice Clemmons left no doubt what he was thinking. From the time he was a teenager, he produced a trail of documents and recordings stunning in their detail.

They include 1,800 pages of prison records, showing what happened when he entered one of the country’s most notorious prison systems at age 17. They include 100-plus hours of recorded telephone calls, made last year when he was 37 and determined to kill.

Drawing on those and other accounts, The Seattle Times has produced a book, “The Other Side of Mercy,” released last week. Today we start a five-part series, adapted from the book, chronicling and dissecting Clemmons’ criminal odyssey.

That odyssey included time on a prison farm, swinging a hoe and accumulating enemies; a plea for mercy to a preacher-turned-politician with designs on the White House; dreams of riches fired by the likes of Donald Trump and a self-proclaimed prophet in New York City; a newfound faith in God coupled with a descent into madness; and marriage to a bold, like-minded woman who stood by him almost to the end.

Our examination debunks myths that surround the posting of bail. It exposes holes in the safety network for moving parolees from one state to another.

And it provides rich new material for our nation’s enduring debate over criminal sentencing, imprisonment, rehabilitation and mercy.