Sunday, November 29, 2009

Four Police Officers Killed in Lakewood (Updated)

It is too early to say what the suspect’s motivation was for this ambush of four police officers south of Seattle in Lakewood.  This morning about 8:30 as the officers were preparing to go on duty, a man walked into the coffee shop and opened fire.  Killed were three men and one woman, from the Lakewood Police Department.  The officers identities have not been released pending notification of families.  The officers were in uniform, doing pre-shift paperwork on their laptops when the ambush began.  All were wearing their bulletproof vests.  Spokesman Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sherriff has said that it is not yet known if any of the officers were able to return fire. 

Investigators have tagged and towed a light-colored pickup truck they believe to be the getaway vehicle, and are pursuing multiple search warrants.  Troyer has said that police do not suspect gang involvement at this time, saying that it would be very unusual for gang members to call attention to themselves in this way.  Police were involved in a standoff in a residence a few blocks from the location at which the pickup was discovered about two hours after the shootings.   The suspect is described as a black male between 5’8 and 5’9, in his late twenties or thirties.  His facial hair is ‘scruffy’ and he was wearing a black coat and blue jeans.  Another man may have been with him and fled with the suspect in the white pickup later recovered. 

A $10,000 reward has been offered for information in the case.

Update 1 (November 29,2009)

Police have indicated that the suspect walked into the cafe, past the officers, who were all working on their laptops preparing for their upcoming shift.  The suspect walked to the counter and pretended to order.  He then opened his coat.  The barista saw his handgun and ran out the back door.  The man then turned and shot two officers at close range in the head.  As a third officer stood to bring a weapon to bear the suspect shot again, fatally wounding that officer.  Finally, the fourth officer was shot as that officer brought a weapon to bear.  Though officer was fatally wounded, the officer grasped the suspect and struggled with him to the doorway of the cafe.  It is uncertain if the officer died there of wounds inflicted as he or she rose from their chair, or if he or she was shot again in the doorway.  Investigators believe that the officer got off at least one, and perhaps several shots.  It is unknown if the suspect was hit.

Pierce County Sherriff spokesman Ed Troyer indicated that police are looking at an Arkansas man as a person of interest.  He is

Maurice Clemmons, and he has a long criminal record for armed robberies, assaults, child rape, assault on a police office.  He apparently has been seen in the area and fits the description.  Clemmons had been pardoned in 2000 after serving a fraction of his sentence of 95 years.  I am looking into the history of the pardon to see what convinced Governor Mike Huckabee to grant the pardon.  Clemmons was arrested and charged in Pierce County for third-degree assault on a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child.  He has not, to my knowledge, been identified as the shooter, but fits the description and his recent arrest for assaulting an officer makes him a person of interest.

The officers, an entire patrol squad of three officers and their sergeant, have been identified as Tina Griswold, Greg Richards, Ronald Owens, and Sergeant Mark Renninger.  More than a hundred officers responded to the radio call from dispatch, and many of them from surrounding jurisdictions were on their own time.  A motorcade of dozens of police cars and motorcycles with lights flashing escorted the officers remains to the medical examiner’s office.  They passed beneath a large American flag suspended from two ladder trucks – something I had hoped not to see again in the Seattle Area in my lifetime.  It has become necessary far too soon after the loss of Timothy Brenton. 

The founder of Cafe Forza, a man named Brad Carpenter, is himself a retired policeman.  He indicates that several of his staff that witnessed the attack are still meeting with police trying to recreate a timeline and diagram the events as they happened.  Needless to say, they are pretty upset and it has been painful for them to go through it in detail.  

Police are identifying video surveillance locations and analyzing surveillance videos for any leads they may hold.

Cafe Forza Lakewood, WA

Local News | Four police officers shot to death in Lakewood in apparent ambush | Seattle Times Newspaper

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