TACOMA – The getaway driver in the coffee shop killings of four Washington police officers was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday, but he escaped an automatic life sentence because jurors determined he was not a major participant in the bloodshed.
Dorcus Allen, 40, drove gunman Maurice Clemmons to and from the neighborhood where he ambushed the four Lakewood officers, who were preparing for their Sunday morning shift on Nov. 29, 2009. Allen maintained at trial that he didn’t know why Clemmons needed the rides.
Clemmons was shot in the abdomen by one of the officers, but kept on the run during an intense two-day manhunt that ended when he was killed by a Seattle patrolman on a dark city street.
“You got what you wanted, but you will not get them back,” Allen told reporters as he was led out of court.
He faced four counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Gregory Richards.
Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty against Allen, so if convicted as charged, he would have been sentenced automatically to the only other possible punishment for aggravated murder, life in prison without the possibility of release.
Jurors convicted Allen of four counts of first-degree murder after finding that he was not a major participant in the shootings. But the jury agreed that the victims were police – an aggravating circumstance that gives the judge the option of sentencing him to life in prison.
Prosecutors will ask for four life sentences when Allen is sentenced June 17, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told the News Tribune of Tacoma outside the courtroom.
“Justice was done in this case, and we’re thrilled with this verdict,” Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told the News Tribune outside the courtroom. “You don’t have a getaway driver who doesn’t know what’s up.”
Peter Mazzone, one of Allen’s defense attorneys, had a different reaction.
“I think an innocent man was convicted,” Mazzone said. “We’ll appeal as quickly as we can. This was a lynching, man.”
Of seven of Clemmons’ friends or family members arrested after the killings, Allen was the only one charged with murder. Five people have been convicted of either helping Clemmons or possessing firearms. One was acquitted.
Clemmons had previously been held for investigation of child rape and had posted $190,000 bail six days before the shootings.
Clemmons had been convicted in Arkansas of felonies stemming from a seven-month crime spree and was ultimately sentenced to 108 years in prison. He was granted clemency in 2000, despite a history of violence in prison, and he moved to Washington state.