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Shots Fired in Police Shooting Investigation

Monday, 30 Nov 2009 05:21 AM

 

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SEATTLE -- Shots have been fired at a Seattle house where a man sought in the coffee-shop slayings of four police officers may be holed up.

The widely spaced, deliberate gunfire appeared to be directed toward the house by surrounding police. The shots followed negotiators' use of loudspeakers and explosions to prod Maurice Clemmons. Authorities in the region have been seeking Clemmons in the Sunday morning shootings of four Lakewood officers, about 30 miles from the Seattle house.

There was no audible response from the house. Police spokesman Jeff Kappel had earlier said police weren't sure anyone was in the house, and refused to comment on the negotiator's tactics.

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Police searching for the killer of four officers gunned down in a suburban coffee shop used a loudspeaker and explosions early Monday morning to prod a man apparently holed up in a Seattle house to give himself up.

Police around the region had been searching for Maurice Clemmons, 37, whom they say was near the coffee shop some 30 miles away from the Seattle house.

Officers surrounding the house shone lights on the house and called out to Clemmons by name, saying: "Mr. Clemmons, I'd like to get you out of there safely. I can tell you this, we are not going away."

Any response from inside the house was inaudible from the vantage of a photographer for The Associated Press. But shortly thereafter, police began using sirens outside the house, and there were several loud bangs before the negotiator resumed speaking.

"This is one of the toughest decisions you'll make in your life, but you need to man up."

Seattle Police spokesman Jeff Kappel declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations; earlier he had said officers weren't sure Clemmons was even in the house.

"We're not going to give you a blow-by-blow," Kappel said.

A few minutes later, more bangs were followed by the sound of breaking glass and then a louder explosion.

Clemmons, 37, who had a lengthy prison sentence commuted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee nearly a decade ago, became the prime target Sunday in the search for the killer of Lakewood Police Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; and Officers Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards 42.

Clemmons is believed to have been in the area around the time of the shooting, but Pierce County Sherriff's spokesman Ed Troyer declined to say what evidence might link him to the shooting.

Investigators say they know of no reason that Clemmons or anyone else might have had to open fire on the four as they sat working on their laptops early Sunday morning, catching up on paperwork at the beginning of their shifts.

"We're going to be surprised if there is a motive worth mentioning," said Troyer, who sketched out a scene of controlled and deliberate carnage that spared the employees and other customers at the coffee shop in suburban Parkland, about 35 miles south of Seattle.

"He was very versed with the weapon," Troyer said. "This wasn't something where the windows were shot up and there bullets sprayed around the place. The bullets hit their targets."

Troyer said teams of investigators were working on various aspects of the case, including tracing Clemmons' finances, looking into his past arrests and other criminal history and canvassing neighborhoods he was known to frequent.

"We've been on his trail and we're still on his trail," Troyer said.

Richards' sister-in-law, Melanie Burwell, called the shooting "senseless."

"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," she said. "If there were more people in the world like Greg, things like this wouldn't happen.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas, including aggravated robbery and theft, the sheriff's office said. He also recently was arrested and charged in Washington state for assaulting a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child. Using a bail bondsman, he posted $150,000 _ only $15,000 of his own money _ and was released from jail last week.

Documents related to the pending charges in Washington state indicate an unstable and volatile personality. In one instance, he is accused of punching a sheriff's deputy in the face, The Seattle Times reported. In another, he is accused of gathering his wife and young relatives and forcing them to undress, according to a Pierce County sheriff's report.

"The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus," the report said.

The four officers were with the 100-member police department of Lakewood, which adjoins the unincorporated area of Parkland, where the shootings took place.

An impromptu memorial of an American flag, flowers and candles decorated the front yard at Renninger's home on Sunday night. A motorcade of dozens of police cars and motorcycles with lights flashing escorted the bodies of the four officers to the medical examiner's office.

Troyer said investigators believe two of the officers were killed while sitting in the shop, and a third was shot dead after standing up. The fourth apparently "gave up a good fight."

"We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight ... that he fought the guy all the way out the door," Troyer said. "We hope that he hit him." Investigators were asking area medical providers to report any gunshot wounds, although it wasn't clear that the gunman was wounded.

An electronic tracking bracelet police believe Clemmons was wearing at the insistence of the bail-bond company was found cut off by police on Sunday, Troyer said. Clemmons is believed to have associates who have helped him evade police in the past, Troyer said.

In 1989, Clemmons, then 17, was convicted in Little Rock for aggravated robbery. He was paroled in 2000 after Huckabee commuted a 95-year prison sentence. Huckabee, who was criticized during his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 for granting many clemencies and commutations, cited Clemmons' youth. Clemmons later violated his parole, was returned to prison and released in 2004.

There was no indication of any connection between Sunday's killings and the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer.

Authorities say the man charged with that shooting also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a "one-man war" against law enforcement. Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested after being wounded in a firefight with police days after the Seattle shooting. He remains hospitalized in stable condition, the hospital said Sunday.

The officers killed Sunday were a patrol squad made up of three officers and their sergeant. No threats had been made against them or other officers in the region, sheriff's officials said.

"We won't know if it's a copycat effect or what it was until we get the case solved," Troyer said.

___

Associated Press Writers Rachel La Corte in Tacoma, George Tibbits and Manuel Valdes in Seattle, Jill Zeman Bleed in Little Rock, Ark., and Photographers Elaine Thompson in Seattle and Ted S. Warren in Parkland contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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