In Seattle, Search Continues For Shooting Suspect

Police are searching a Seattle neighborhood Monday for the suspect in the shooting deaths of four police officers from a Tacoma, Wash., suburb. Earlier, a SWAT team stormed a house in the area where Maurice Clemmons was thought to be hiding, but he had already escaped.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

To Washington State now, where the search is still on for the man suspected of shooting and killing four police officers in a coffee shop on Sunday.

NPR's Martin Kaste is with us from Seattle. Martin, you have been following the progress of this manhunt. Where exactly are you right now?

MARTIN KASTE: Well, I'm in a park called Cowen Park near the University of Washington campus, and the Seattle police spent a couple of hours here combing through here, looking for some sign of their suspect, a man named Maurice Clemmons. It has been like this for them all day. They've been chasing tip after tip. Here they had reports of blood in an outdoor restroom in the park. And since there's an idea that he might have been wounded yesterday during the attack on the police officers near Tacoma, they cordoned off this whole park and were going over it. It's a wooded park, lots of, sort of, nooks and crannies, there's a ravine, looking for some sign of him. They just called off that search now.

It's been a frustrating day for them like that. They've been going all over the city from the university campus to one neighborhood after another, following all the tips that are rolling in - a lot of information coming in, not a lot that's helped them so far.

BLOCK: And the police are said to be searching for a '97 Mazda Millenia?

KASTE: Yeah, there's a thought that that car is registered to the suspect's wife. And there's some thought that she might be trying to leave the area, maybe head back to Arkansas where they're from. They don't know. They're really, right now they're going on anything and there's some sense that they just want to keep in touch with her. Perhaps she knows more than you'd think. But there's definitely a search here for any clues that might lead to his whereabouts. Frankly, right now they seem to be operating on some assumptions, number one that he's wounded, that they don't necessarily have a lot of basis for.

BLOCK: You mentioned Maurice Clemmons is from Arkansas. He has a long criminal history. Could you tell us a little bit about this?

KASTE: Well, he spent time in prison in Arkansas on a robbery conviction. He left prison early as part of a clemency granted by then governor Mike Huckabee. He later returned to prison when - I believe it was in violation of parole terms and later was released early again, moved to Washington state and led a relatively quiet life here until recently. But now he has several felonies pending against him because of an incident involving the allegation of the rape of a minor and an assault on a police officer.

So there's the - he was, in fact, in jail until a week ago when he posted bail through a bondsman and was released and there's a lot of talk here about why that happened. So he has a very long rap sheet. He's been in trouble with the law, and for that reason and the fact that they have some reports that he may have decided he was going to kill policemen recently, he may have said that to an associate, they definitely have him on their list as a potential suspect here.

BLOCK: And it sounds like the community there is already planning a vigil to honor the officers that were killed.

Martin, thank you very much for staying on top of the story for us.

KASTE: You bet.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Martin Kaste.

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Suspected Cop Killer Eludes Police; Manhunt Goes On

A Seattle house where a suspected cop killer had been thought to be hiding. i i

Smoke rises after police set off an explosive device early Monday at a Seattle home where a suspected cop killer was believed to be hiding. Police later said the suspect was not inside the house. Elaine Thompson/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Elaine Thompson/AP
A Seattle house where a suspected cop killer had been thought to be hiding.

Smoke rises after police set off an explosive device early Monday at a Seattle home where a suspected cop killer was believed to be hiding. Police later said the suspect was not inside the house.

Elaine Thompson/AP

After an hours-long standoff, a SWAT team stormed a Seattle home where the man alleged to have gunned down four police officers at a suburban coffee shop over the weekend was believed to be cornered — only to find the suspect wasn't inside.

Police canvassed the neighborhood Monday using search dogs while hundreds of officers were deployed around Seattle looking for any sign of 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons.

Authorities put up a $125,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Pierce County, Wash., sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said Clemmons' location is not known, and that "if he didn't get a ride out of there, he could still be in the area."

The ex-convict from Arkansas is thought to be wounded and possibly dead after Sunday's execution-style slayings at Forza Coffee in Parkland, Wash.

The four victims were all officers with the Lakewood, Wash., police department. They had stopped in the coffee shop at the start of their shifts, and were in uniform and working on their laptops at the time of the shootings.

Troyer said it's clear that the assailant entered the shop with the intention of killing the officers, and that the gunman had been wounded, possibly by one of his victims.

Maurice Clemmons, a suspect in the killings of four police officers in Parkland, Wash. i i

This photo provided by the Pierce County Sheriff's Department shows Maurice Clemmons, a suspect in the killings of four police officers in Parkland, Wash. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
Maurice Clemmons, a suspect in the killings of four police officers in Parkland, Wash.

This photo provided by the Pierce County Sheriff's Department shows Maurice Clemmons, a suspect in the killings of four police officers in Parkland, Wash.

AP

"We have determined that, in fact, he has been shot," Troyer said. "He may be deceased from his gunshot wound."

He said police Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; officers Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards, 42, were specifically targeted. The gunman left employees and customers alone.

Troyer said warrants for first-degree murder have been issued against Clemmons. Authorities did not announce a possible motive for the attack, but Clemmons reportedly told an associate he wanted to kill police and watch it on the news.

At an afternoon news conference Monday, Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar choked back tears as he spoke of the officers killed.

"We will get through this; however, it is a very, very tough time for the families of our fallen officers," Farrar said.

The area around the coffee shop had been cordoned off Sunday, but still people tried to get close, some leaving flowers at the nearest intersection.

As a police helicopter circled overhead, people like Kathy Skillen stayed to watch, peering down the street at the strip mall coffee shop where the dead officers still lay.

"I think it's pretty sick, having four policemen killed at once. I think it's just — is pretty sad," Skillen told NPR.

Police cars block access to the Leschi neighborhood i i

Police cars block access to the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle early Monday in Seattle. Elaine Thompson/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Elaine Thompson/AP
Police cars block access to the Leschi neighborhood

Police cars block access to the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle early Monday in Seattle.

Elaine Thompson/AP

For others, such as taxi driver Henry Moran, the slayings brought out a belligerent streak.

"I think more people should carry guns," he said. "I think people should carry their guns and be ready."

Police said Clemmons has had previous run-ins with the law in Washington state and faces several felony charges. He had a lengthy prison sentence commuted nearly a decade ago by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

Huckabee, a former presidential candidate, issued a statement on his Web site shortly after the shootings. "Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state."

Clemmons is believed to have been in the area around the time of the shootings, but Troyer declined to say what evidence might link him to the crime.

He said investigators believe two of the officers were killed while sitting in the shop, which he described as an "execution." A third was shot dead after standing up, and the fourth apparently "gave up a good fight."

"We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight ... that he fought the guy all the way out the door," Troyer said.

Forza Coffee in Parkland, about 35 miles south of Seattle, is operated by a retired police officer and is known as a hangout for local cops.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history in Arkansas. 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 — only $15,000 of his own money — and was released from jail last week.

Documents related to the pending charges in Washington indicate that Clemmons is known to have an unstable and volatile personality. The Seattle Times reported that in one instance, he is accused of punching a sheriff's deputy in the face. He also is accused of gathering his wife and young relatives and forcing them to undress, according to a Pierce County sheriff's report.

"The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus," the report stated.

The fact that Sunday's attack was an ambush is especially worrisome to local police after a Seattle officer was gunned down in his squad car less than a month ago. Police say a suspect is in custody in that case and that there is no apparent connection.

From NPR's Martin Kaste, Scott Neuman and wire reports

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