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Police Widen Search for Officer Killings Suspect

Tuesday, 01 Dec 2009 04:21 AM

 

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SEATTLE -- Dozens of police officers fanned out over two counties, storming homes and canvassing city streets with dogs in an expanded search for a man suspected of gunning down four police officers at a Washington state coffee shop.

Maurice Clemmons has received help since the Sunday morning shooting from a network friends and family who gave him places to stay, medical aid, rides and money, police said. Officers late Monday detained a sister of Clemmons who they think treated the 37-year-old suspect's gunshot wound.

"We believe she drove him up to Seattle and bandaged him up," Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said.

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Police believe people close to Clemmons have mislead officers, and Troyer said anyone helping him could face charges. Clemmons' sister wasn't in custody late Monday, and her name wasn't released.

Authorities said the gunman singled out the officers and spared employees and other customers at the coffee shop in Lakewood, a 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.

Police said they aren't sure what prompted Clemmons 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 told the Tacoma News-Tribune that Clemmons indicated the night before the shooting "that he was going to shoot police and watch the news."

Police spent much of Sunday frantically chasing leads, at one point cordoning off a park where people thought they saw Clemmons. They also alerted hospitals to be on the lookout for a man seeking treatment for gunshot wounds.

Authorities found a handgun carried by the killer, along with a pickup truck belonging to the suspect with blood stains inside.

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.

Throughout Monday, police officers worked to narrow down Clemmons' whereabouts, searching multiple spots in the Seattle and Tacoma area. Authorities posted a $125,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

"We need to get him into custody and we need to end this," Troyer said Monday night.

Authorities in two states were criticized amid revelations that Clemmons was allowed to walk the streets despite a teenage crime spree in Arkansas that landed him an 108-year prison sentence. He was released early after then-Gov. Mike Huckabee commuted his sentence.

Huckabee cited Clemmons' youth in granting the request. But Clemmons quickly reverted to his criminal past, violated his parole and was returned to prison. He was released again in 2004.

"This guy should have never been on the street," said Brian D. Wurts, president of the police union in Lakewood. "Our elected officials need to find out why these people are out."

Huckabee said on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night that Clemmons was allowed back on the street because prosecutors failed to file paperwork in time.

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, whose office opposed Clemmons' parole in 2000 and 2004, said Huckabee's comments were "red herrings."

"My word to Mr. Huckabee is man up and own what you did," Jegley said.

Clemmons was charged in Washington state earlier this year with assaulting a police officer and raping a child, and investigators in the sex case said he was motivated by visions that he was Jesus Christ and that the world was on the verge of the apocalypse.

But he was released from jail after posting bail with the assistance of Jail Sucks Bail Bonds.

Documents related to those charges indicate a volatile personality. In one instance, he is accused of gathering his wife and young relatives and forcing them to undress.

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

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Manuel Valdes in Seattle, Rachel La Corte in Tacoma, George Tibbits in Seattle, Andrew DeMillo and Jill Zeman Bleed in Little Rock, Ark., and photographers Elaine Thompson in Seattle and Ted S. Warren in Parkland, Wash.

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

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