TACOMA — The families of three Lakewood police officers slain as they sat in a coffee shop in November are expected to file claims against Pierce County for $134 million.
The News Tribune newspaper of Tacoma reports that the claims, which are the first step toward filing a lawsuit, are to be filed on Friday.
The families of officers Mark Renninger, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards contend the county should have done more to keep Maurice Clemmons locked up. Clemmons was in and out of jail in the months before the shootings, and threatened to kill jail staff during one of his bookings.
Clemmons also made several recorded phone calls from the Pierce County Jail in which he spoke of killing police. Such calls are not routinely monitored.
Clemmons killed the three officers, plus Officer Tina Griswold, as they sat in a coffee shop on Nov. 29. A lone Seattle patrolman killed Clemmons two days later, following a frantic manhunt.
The widows of Richards and Renninger told KOMO-TV they hope their claim will force the county to make changes that could prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Detective Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, told the station that the amount of money the families are seeking is “quite shocking.” He said there was no way the county could have kept Clemmons in jail after he made bail.
“When you end up getting attorneys, money and greed, it’s just a bad mix,” he said. “It just shows that anybody can sue anybody, no matter how meritless it is. It’s really going to hurt a lot of people.”
Troyer said it was “preposterous” to think that the county could have listened to every phone call made from the jail. That would take 40 people and cost an estimated $50 million per year, he said.
“It upset pretty much everybody that was involved. Our hearts still go out to the families,” he said. “We take it personally. We’ve done so much for them, and we miss them just like their families do.”