Seattle police say friends helped shooting suspect
Hours after the man suspected of killing four Seattle-area police officers was shot to death Tuesday, prosecutors said they had evidence of an extensive network of friends and relatives who helped him evade a massive manhunt.
Two friends of Maurice Clemmons, who was killed in the predawn hours after a Seattle officer recognized him, were arraigned in Pierce County Superior Court on charges of rendering criminal assistance. Authorities said at least three other people, including a driver who allegedly helped Clemmons flee the suburban coffee shop where the ambush occurred, soon could be charged.
According to court documents, friends and family helped Clemmons, 37, dress his gunshot wound and provided him with a cellphone, transportation and shelter as he sought to evade the dragnet laid across western Washington.
Prosecutors said that on Saturday, Clemmons had boasted to brothers Douglas and Eddie Davis of his plan to go out and kill police officers, showing them two handguns. Clemmons returned to their home the next day and announced he had “taken care of his business,” the brothers told detectives.
The two were charged Tuesday with a Class C felony. Douglas Davis was detained on $500,000 bail; his brother’s bail was set at $700,000. A third man, Rickey Hinton, was ordered held for an additional 72 hours until prosecutors could prepare charges against him.
Officers from the Lakewood Police Department supported relatives of their fallen colleagues as they left the courtroom. The slain officers were Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.
“We are all relieved to have Maurice Clemmons off the street, but there’s still work to be done here. We’re not going to rest until everyone involved in this murder in any way is brought to justice,” Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist told reporters. “When you help a criminal, you become a criminal.”
Clemmons was spotted about 2:45 a.m. Tuesday when a veteran Seattle officer noticed a car idling on the side of the road in the Rainier Valley area, its hood up. When he stopped to check, the officer discovered the car had been reported stolen hours earlier. The officer then detected movement behind him.
“He recognized the person who was approaching him to be looking . . . just like the person that has been broadcast as the possible suspect in the tragic homicide in Lakewood,” Seattle Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said.
The officer ordered Clemmons to stop and show his hands. Instead, the suspect began running around the disabled car. The officer fired several rounds.
“It was all over in 15 seconds,” Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
After he was killed, Clemmons was found to have one of the slain officers’ guns, authorities said.
According to court documents, Clemmons apparently arrived at the coffee shop in Parkland on Sunday morning with two handguns -- a .38-caliber revolver later found with six spent shell casings and a 9-millimeter handgun. It had one spent casing.
Two baristas said they fled out a back door and got into their car as soon as Clemmons began firing. They saw him struggling with one of the officers at the front door of the coffee shop as they drove down the street. Clemmons was shot in the abdomen.
“The medics . . . were shaking their heads when they saw that the suspect had been shot directly in the middle . . . and the guy managed to leave a scene -- let alone walk around for a couple days,” Troyer said. “He had gauze and cotton stuffed in the hole with duct tape over it. If we hadn’t have gotten him, that wound would have eventually taken care of it.”
Prosecutors said they were interviewing a purported getaway driver to determine how much he had known in advance of Clemmons’ plans before deciding whether to charge him with murder.
As for Hinton, his involvement allegedly began Saturday night, when Clemmons asked him for the keys to his pickup, saying he “needed it the next morning,” the court documents said.
Hinton told officers that Clemmons showed up on foot Sunday morning, bleeding. Hinton gave Eddie Davis the keys to his Pontiac and told both brothers to “get Clemmons out of there.” He instructed one of his relatives to delete Clemmons’ numbers from his cellphone.
At Clemmons’ request, Douglas Davis said, he made two phone calls to a number the fugitive gave him before dropping Clemmons off at a female relative’s home.
According to authorities, the relative helped Clemmons clean his wound and change clothes. Then she took him to the Auburn Super Mall parking lot, where another woman in a small white car picked him up.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that they had interviewed a woman who identified herself as a friend of Clemmons, and who admitted she had picked him up in a Seattle parking lot and taken him to her home.
After Clemmons told her he had killed the police officers, the woman bought medical supplies, helped treat his wound and allowed him to change clothes and do a load of laundry. She then dropped him off near a house in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood that police subsequently surrounded Sunday night.
Clemmons had telephoned residents of that house to tell him he was coming, but they reported it to authorities, who apparently arrived two or three minutes after he left.
Troyer said detectives had not come up with a motive for the police killings, “other than the fact [Clemmons] was locked up in jail, and the night before, he told a group of friends: ‘Watch the news,’ and he was going to go out and kill some cops.”
Clemmons had a history of violent crime. He would have been serving a 108-year prison term in Arkansas, but his sentence -- for crimes including aggravated robbery and illegal possession of a firearm -- was commuted in 2000. Last week, Clemmons made bail in Washington after being charged with assault on a police officer and second-degree rape.
On Tuesday, Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar said: “I just want to thank all my brothers and sisters in law enforcement for the hours and hours of tireless work. . . . I knew that they would bring this to a resolution -- they would find this person.”