Police tonight are searching a house in Renton, one of a number of locations where they're looking for clues in the hunt for suspected cop-killer Maurice Clemmons.
Police were searching a house in the Renton area Monday night, one of several “tactical operations” they’re conducting in their hunt for suspected cop-killer Maurice Clemmons.
A relative of Clemmons who lives at the house on Renton Avenue South near South 130th Street was taken into custody, but authorities are still looking for Clemmons, according to a law enforcement source.
The relative is believed to have helped Clemmons elude capture, the source said.
Clemmons has been getting help and shelter from friends and relatives since shortly after the Sunday morning shooting deaths of four Lakewood police officers, authorities have concluded.
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Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer briefed media from a church parking lot near the Renton house on Monday night, saying that he didn’t know of any arrests but that several “relatives and/or aquaintances” were being questioned. Troyer said police did not believe Clemmons was in the house.
The search of the Renton house was the fourth tactical operation conducted by police, Troyer said Authorities were executing several search warrants, he said. He did not elaborate on the other operations.
Around 7:30 p.m. Monday, officers threw flash-bangs at the bottom of a door on the first floor of the house. The devices are intended to momentarily stun or blind a person. The officers then entered the the two-story white wood-frame house. Outside, neighbors gathered and watched the operation. Police were still inside the house around 8:30 p.m.
Troyer said police believe Clemmons’ relatives or acquaintances have misled authorities regarding his whereabouts.
“We know it’s not just him we’re looking for now. It’s other people helping him do this,” Troyer said. “If they are going to impede our investigation then they become a part of the investigation.”
Also frustrating to law-enforcement officers is that Clemmons reportedly told acquaintances the night before the attack to “watch the news” because he was going to “kill cops.””
No one reported his comments to police until after the attack, said Sheri Badger, another Pierce County spokesperson.
The hunt for Clemmons has stretched deep into its second day, frustrating police as they chase lead after lead across two counties.
A murder warrant has been issued for Clemmons, and officers thought they had him Clemmons surrounded in a Leschi home late Sunday. But when a SWAT team finally went in at 7 a.m. Monday, the house was empty.
Authorities have since confirmed that Clemmons was in the Leschi area Sunday night, though it isn’t clear how he escaped or where he went, a source said.
Since then, officers have crisscrossed Seattle, chasing down alleged sightings and blood trails. Clemmons was shot and perhaps seriously wounded by one of the slain officers Sunday morning, Troyer said.
Shortly after noon, notice went out for officers to be on the lookout for a green 1997 Mazda Millenia that had been registered to Clemmons’ wife, Nicole Cheryleen Smith. They said the car might be headed toward Arkansas, where Maurice Clemmons once lived.
Washington State Patrol trooper Cliff Pratt said every trooper had been alerted to look for the car, and that troopers were watching all major exits from the state.
He said they were also watching train and bus stations, and other transportation hubs.
About 1 p.m., six officers in SWAT gear pulled up to Smith’s Tacoma home and four went inside, escorted by a young man who pulled up in a silver Honda.
But a few hours later they were told they could stop looking for the car. It was found, and had been sold two months ago.
In Seattle, police have followed clues that led them to the University of Washington, Beacon Hill, Ravenna, the International District and Leschi. So far, none have panned out.
“We’re responding to citizen calls,” Seattle police Sgt. Don Smith said.
At 2 p.m., officers were just leaving Cowen Park in Ravenna, where a trail of fresh blood had been reported about noon.
Not long before, officers had closed off a street and at least one building near Maynard Avenue South and South Dearborn Street, after bloody gauze was found in the street.
Before that, officers had raced to Jose Rizal Park in Beacon Hill after someone reported seeing Clemmons there. By 10:30, officers had walked the park with police dogs and were confident Clemmons wasn’t there.
Earlier Monday, police swarmed to the University of Washington after someone reported seeing Clemmons getting off a Metro bus at the campus. That search led officers to near the UW Medical Center and apparently into a classroom, but Clemmons wasn’t there.
There is a $145,000 reward for information leading to Clemmons’ capture.
Police know that Clemmons was wounded because of information they obtained from people who helped Clemmons after the shootings.
Badger said every hospital in King, Pierce, Thurston and Snohomish counties has been told to contact police if a patient shows up for treatment of a gunshot wound.
Lt. Dave McDonald of the Puyallup Police Department said Monday detectives believe Clemmons was armed with more than one handgun during Sunday morning’s attack. One handgun used in the shootings was recovered at the coffee shop where the four Lakewood officers were slain. Police think he dropped it during a fight with one of the officers. He was able to kill that officer, likely with a second handgun
Police found blood in his white Chevrolet pickup, which was found Sunday in a supermarket parking lot in Parkland. They also have eyewitness statements placing Clemmons in Leschi Sunday night.
Investigators have no indication that Clemmons had a motive aimed specifically at any of the individual officers who were gunned down, Troyer said.
“He was upset about being incarcerated,” Troyer said. “He was just targeting cops.”
On Sunday evening, SWAT teams and police negotiators had surrounded the Leschi house at East Yesler Way and 32nd Avenue South based on tips given to police. A woman who was leaving the home was stopped by officers and told them Clemmons was on the property and bleeding.
The woman told police that someone had dropped Clemmons off at his aunt’s home, on East Superior Street.
Around 12:10 a.m. Monday, a King County sheriff’s armored vehicle was brought to the Leschi home, which was by then bathed in bright lights. Police began using loudspeakers, asking whoever was inside to call 911.
Police yelled over the loudspeakers, “Mr. Clemmons we want to minimize the situation.”
Hours later, police concluded that while Clemmons had been to the house, he had not gone inside.
The series of events leading up to the standoff at house in Leschi and the searches since then began more than 16 hours earlier at an upscale coffee shop in Parkland, Pierce County. The coffee shop was a hangout for officers that became the scene of the deadliest attack on law enforcement in state history.
The four officers were shot and killed at 8:15 a.m. Sunday as they worked on their laptops at Forza Coffee Company in Parkland. The first two officers were “flat-out executed,” while the third tried to stop the gunman and the fourth fired at him, Troyer said.
Those killed were identified as Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Gregory Richards, 42.
Clemmons has a long criminal record in Arkansas and Washington. He was released from custody in Pierce County just a week ago, and was facing a charge of raping a child. Family members described him as being in a state of mental deterioration. Last spring, he was also accused of punching a sheriff’s deputy in the face.
Sunday’s shootings came as officers from across the state were still coming to terms with last month’s ambush-slaying of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton. The two incidents do not appear related, police said.
Seattle Times staff reporters Sara Jean Green, Mike Carter, Steve Miletich, Jonathan Martin, Nick Perry, Bob Young, Jennifer Sullivan and Christine Clarridge and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org