A Pierce County jury on Thursday found Darcus Allen guilty of first-degree murder for acting as the getaway driver for Maurice Clemmons, who gunned down four Lakewood police officers in November 2009.
TACOMA — A Pierce County jury closed the book on the coldblooded slayings of four Lakewood police officers by convicting the killer’s getaway driver of four counts of first-degree murder on Thursday.
Darcus Allen, 40, faces a minimum of 100 years in prison for his role in shuttling his one-time Arkansas prisonmate, Maurice Clemmons, to and from the Parkland coffee shop where the officers were ambushed and killed on Nov. 29, 2009.
The case against Allen was the most complex of the seven prosecutions against Clemmons’ friends or family members because it required prosecutors to prove that Allen knew, or should have known, of the murderous plan.
“This has been a long march to justice,” said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “You can feel the relief in the [prosecutor's] office to have finished these and finished them with a just verdict.”
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Allen’s attorneys contended that he didn’t know of the plan, and had become frightened of Clemmons as he had a mental breakdown in the months leading up to the crime.
“You got what you wanted. It ain’t going to bring them back, though,”Allen said as he was led out of the courtroom.
Peter Mazzone, one of Allen’s defense attorneys, called the verdict a “modern-day lynching.”
“The community wanted to take it out on someone. The prosecution wanted to take it out on someone. Darcus Allen was the perfect person to take it out on, even though the evidence was underwhelming,” said Mazzone.
The 12-member jury struggled with the case for nearly five days, with jurors vomiting or crying during deliberations, jurors said after the verdict. “This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said juror Inga Galtney, 65, of Tacoma.
The jury created a detailed timeline of the crime and determined that Allen had lied to police when he said he dropped Clemmons off at a carwash a quarter-mile from the coffee shop, Galtney said. Instead, the jury believed that Allen dropped off Clemmons nearby, indicating he was in on the plan.
The jury believed that Allen “had a reasonable assumption about what Clemmons was going to do,” said juror Jim Smith.
The jury was also swayed by prosecutors’ closing arguments in which they detailed a series of violent threats toward police that Clemmons made in Allen’s presence, another juror said.
When Allen got into the truck with Clemmons the morning of the shootings, “he knew he was sitting next to a ticking time bomb,” said the jury forewoman, who identified herself as “Chrissy” but declined to give her last name.
The murders of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Ronnie Owens and Greg Richards was the deadliest single act of violence against police in state history and touched off a massive 40-hour manhunt after Clemmons escaped.
Clemmons evaded the dragnet by fleeing to Seattle, staying at his ex-girlfriend’s house and then at a South Seattle crack house. Clemmons tried to ambush Seattle police Officer Benjamin Kelly on the morning of Dec. 1, but Kelly shot and killed him.
Clemmons’ sister, aunt, cousin, ex-girlfriend and former employee were convicted of aiding him while he was on the run.
His brother, Rickey Hinton, was acquitted.
In March, the city of Seattle paid another aunt of Clemmons’, Chrisceda Clemmons, and her family, nearly $1 million for damage caused in a failed attempt to apprehend Clemmons at her house.
Allen was the only person charged with the murders. During the monthlong trial, prosecutors described how Allen appeared to know Clemmons was intent on murder in the week leading up to the crime.
Six days before the murders, Allen asked Clemmons, who had just been released from jail, “Still wanna kill cops?” according to deputy Prosecutor Stephen Penner.
Over the next few days, Clemmons cut off a court-ordered GPS bracelet and left it in the garage where Allen was staying.
At Thanksgiving, Clemmons told Allen and others that he hoped that act would draw police to his home. The result, Clemmons said, would be “Knock, knock, knock — boom,” according to evidence presented at trial.
Near the end of the trial, Superior Court Judge Frederick Fleming dismissed four lesser murder charges, leaving jurors to deliberate solely on four counts of first-degree murder. The jury did not find that he was a “major participant” in the crime, but that he should have known of Clemmons’ plan.
For the first time prosecutors showed the jury crime-scene photos of the slain officers. The grisly photos prompted the sister of Owens, one of the slain officers, to flee the courtroom in tears.
Lindquist said showing the photos was vital. “These photos were among the least gruesome that could still tell the story as it needed to be told,” he said.
Sentencing is set for June 17. Lindquist said he would seek life sentences for each count, although even the approximate 100-year mandatory sentence was a “functional life sentence.”
Allen’s defense team said they will appeal the verdict.
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information from KING-TV is included in this report.