November 30, 2009 in Nation/World

Gunman kills 4 officers

Officials have no motive but believe Tacoma-area shooting was targeted
From Wire Reports
 
Associated Press photo

Stephanie James, right, wife of a Lakewood police officer, wipes a tear during a candlelight vigil held Sunday night at the Champions Centre in Tacoma for four Lakewood officers who were fatally shot Sunday morning at a coffee shop in Parkland.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

SEATTLE – A 37-year-old Tacoma man is being sought for questioning in the execution-style shooting Sunday of four Lakewood, Wash., police officers, according to two law enforcement sources.

Maurice Clemmons, who was recently released from jail, has an extensive criminal record in Pierce County and Arkansas, court records show. Clemmons is wanted in Arkansas and faces eight criminal charges in Washington state.

The four officers were killed at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday by a man who walked into a coffee shop and opened fire. The officers – Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and Officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42 – were found dead by deputies who arrived at Forza Coffee, said Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer.

“We have no motive at all,” Troyer said. “I don’t think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it.”

The four officers were with the 100-member police department of Lakewood, which adjoins the unincorporated area of Parkland, south of Tacoma, 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 the investigation into the shootings indicate the gunman “flat-out executed” two of the officers. One officer then stood up, tried to go for the gunman and was shot, Troyer said.

The fourth officer was involved in some kind of struggle with the gunman.

“What happened in there wasn’t just a shooting. One of the officers managed to fight his way with the suspect, wrestled him out the door when he was shot and killed,” Troyer said.

Before that fourth officer was killed, Troyer said, he apparently managed to fire at the shooter.

“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.

The officers were in uniform, including bulletproof vests, and were working on their laptop computers as they prepared to start their day shifts. Troyer said the gunman entered the coffee house and walked toward the counter as if to place an order. A barista saw a gun when the man opened his jacket and fled out the back door. The man then turned and opened fire on the officers.

Troyer said the attack was clearly targeted at the officers, not a robbery gone bad.

“This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers,” he said. “There were marked patrol cars outside and they were all in uniform.”

Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. None were injured. All were interviewed by Pierce County sheriff’s investigators.

Troyer said there may have been a driver who helped the suspect get away, and police had a description of the possible driver.

There was no indication of any connection with the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer. Officer Timothy Brenton was targeted for being a police officer when he was gunned down while sitting in his patrol car the night of Oct. 31.

A $100,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest in the Lakewood officers’ deaths.

The gunman, described as a black man in his 20s or 30s, between 5-feet-7-inches and 5-feet-10-inches tall, ran north on Steele Street South after the shooting. He was wearing a black coat over a gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, Troyer said.

The coffee shop is on a side street near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of Seattle. The shop is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.

Investigators were checking surveillance video from multiple sources, trying to identify a possible getaway car, Troyer said.

“We lost people we care about. We’re working to find out who did this and deal with him,” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor told reporters at the scene.

Troyer told reporters that Clemmons was believed to have been in the area around the time of the shooting, but declined to say what evidence might link him to the shooting.

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 and was released from jail last week.

The Seattle Times and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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