Maurice Clemmons, the suspect wanted in the slaying of four Lakewood police officers, was shot and killed in South Seattle early this morning.
Maurice Clemmons, the suspect wanted in the slaying of four Lakewood police officers, was shot and killed in South Seattle early this morning by a Seattle police officer making a routine check of a stolen car.
The shooting occurred about the same time as Pierce County sheriff’s detectives took into custody a man believed to have acted as a getaway driver in Sunday’s slayings of the Lakewood officers.
Police also booked three people into jail on suspicion of providing assistance to Clemmons, said sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer.
Several other people also will be taken into custody for helping Clemmons, Troyer said.
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Clemmons, who was armed with a handgun taken from one of the officers he is accused of killing, was shot in the 4400 block of South Kenyon Street during a confrontation with a South Precinct patrol officer, police officials said. He refused commands to stop and was shot by the officer about 2:45 a.m., the officials said.
Troyer said Clemmons had an older wound to his stomach believed to be the result of a gunshot fired by one of the Lakewood officers who was killed Sunday. Troyer said he was surprised Clemmons survived that wound.
Troyer praised the Seattle officer who shot Clemmons, saying the officer was lucky he wasn’t killed. The officer has been placed on routine administrative leave.
Suspect approached patrol car
The officer’s name was not released, but a law-enforcement source identified him as Benjamin L. Kelly, 39, who joined the department 4 ½ years ago. He was not injured.
In a statement that didn’t identify Kelly by name, the Seattle police said the officer has prior law enforcement experience and is a military veteran.
The officer was on routine patrol when he saw a car with the hood up and the engine running, police officials said.
The officer ran the license plate and determined the car had been stolen, said Seattle Assistant Chief Jim Pugel.
The car had been reported stolen from the 4800 block of South Chicago Street about 12:45 a.m., a law enforcement source said.
As the officer sat in his patrol car doing paperwork on the stolen car, he noticed a man was approaching the driver’s side of the patrol car from behind.
The officer immediately recognized the man as matching the description of Clemmons and got out of his patrol car, Pugel said.
“He ordered the person to stop. He ordered the person to show his hands, that person would not show his hands, and also began to run away counterclockwise around the vehicle,” Pugel said.
The officer again told him to stop and he didn’t comply, Pugel said.
As the officer drew his gun, the man “reached into his waist area and moved,” the department said in a written statement.
The officer then fired several shots at the man, striking him at least twice, the statement said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The man collapsed near some bushes on the north side of the street, the statement said.
The man has been tentatively identified as Clemmons based on his description and other information, Pugel said.
A check of the serial number on the handgun found on Clemmons showed that it belonged to one of the Lakewood police officers, Pugel said.
Troyer did not identify the officer whose gun was taken.
According to state law, a police officer is justified in using deadly force when it is necessary “to arrest or apprehend a person who the officer reasonably believes has committed, has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a felony.”
In making that decision, the officer must have probable cause to believe the suspect, if not apprehended, poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer, or to others. That might include displaying a weapon, or knowledge the person has committed or threatened violence.
An officer may use deadly force to prevent escape, “where, if feasible, some warning is given.”
More arrests coming
Clemmons has been the focus of a massive manhunt since Sunday morning, when he is accused of killing four Lakewood police officers in a coffee shop in Parkland.
Troyer said Clemmons’ relatives and friends provided him with medical assistance, cellphones, money and were making arrangements to help him leave the state. Some people provided misleading information to hinder the search for Clemmons, he said.
Numerous people have helped him since Sunday’s shooting, and active investigations are ongoing into their role, Troyer said.
“We expect to have up to six or seven people in custody by the day’s end,” he said.
Officers earlier detained a sister of Clemmons who they think treated the 37-year-old suspect’s gunshot wound. She wasn’t in custody late Monday, and her name wasn’t released.
A man who possibly is a half-brother of Clemmons was booked into jail in Pierce County early today.
Clemmons apparently had no tie to to residents on the block where he was killed, Pugel said.
Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar arrived at the scene a few hours after the shooting to express relief and appreciation for the work that has been done by law enforcement agencies throughout the area since Sunday’s shooting.
“I just want to thank all my brothers and sisters in law enforcement,” he said. “I just can’t say enough about what they’ve done in the last few days.”
He said the families of the dead officers have been notified of Clemmons’ death.
“What went through my mind mostly was … we can close the page on this and we can get our people together and start the healing process,” Farrar said.
“I was going to go after him”
Harvey Lagon, whose car was stolen, reported the theft about 12:45 a.m. today, above five blocks from the shooting scene. Lagon was watching television when he heard a car start up and heard someone revving the engine.
“I looked out the window and it was my car,” he said.
He did not know until contacted by a Times reporter that his car had been stolen by Clemmons.
“I’m the one who called the cops,” he said. “I was going to go after him. It’s a good thing I didn’t.”
The car is owned by his father, Rodolfo Lagon, “I’m glad the dude got caught because I called the police. But I’m not glad the car was stolen.”
Lagon noted that sometimes the car dies.
“It’s not a very reliable car.” he said. “We only use it for short trips.”
By 8 a.m., hours after the shooting, more than a dozen police units remained at the scene, and officers could be seen checking out the street, sidewalk, parking strip and nearby porches looking for evidence.
At one point, a Seattle Fire Department ladder truck was brought in to hoist a police photographer high above the scene. The suspect vehicle was still in place, its hood up and passenger-side door open. A two-block section of South Kenyon Street remained closed.
Memorial for officers is Dec. 8
Authorities said the gunman singled out the Lakewood officers and spared employees and other customers at the coffee shop in Parkland, a Tacoma suburb about 35 miles south of Seattle. He then fled, but not before he was apparently shot in the torso by one of the dying officers.
Killed were Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and Officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42.
A memorial service for the officers will be at 1 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Tacoma Dome.
Police said they aren’t sure what prompted the gunman to shoot the officers as they did paperwork on their laptops. Clemmons was described as increasingly erratic in the past few months and had been arrested earlier this year on charges that he punched a sheriff’s deputy in the face.
Troyer said that Clemmons indicated the night before the shooting “that he was going to shoot police and watch the news.”
Police surrounded a house in a Seattle neighborhood late Sunday following a tip Clemmons had been dropped off there. After an all-night siege, a SWAT team entered the home and found it empty. But police said Clemmons had been there.
Police frantically chased leads on Monday, searching multiple spots in the Seattle and Tacoma area and at one point cordoning off a park where people thought they saw Clemmons.
Authorities found a handgun carried by the killer, along with a pickup belonging to the suspect with blood stains inside. They posted a $125,000 reward for information leading to Clemmons’ arrest and alerted hospitals to be on the lookout for a man seeking treatment for gunshot wounds.
In the rural town of Marianna, Ark., about 90 miles east of Little Rock, Clemmons’ aunt Mamie Clemmons expressed regret Tuesday over the deaths of the four officers and her nephew.
“We’re all so sorry this happened,” she said. “This a tragedy for everybody. We’re so sorry for those families.”
State reviewing its records
Gov. Chris Gregoire said today that she has asked the state Department of Corrections, the Department of Social and Health Services and any other state agency who had contact with Clemmons to put together for her any information the agency has on Clemmons.
In an interview with KING-TV, Gregoire said, “We will release everything we have on him. How this guy was out on our streets. I want those answers like everyone else.”
Information from Seattle Times staff reporters Jennifer Sullivan, Steve Miletich, Mark Rahner, Sara Jean Green, Jack Broom, Mike Carter and Mike Lindblom and news researcher Miyoko Wolf is included in this report.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org