Police Kill Suspect In Officer Slayings In Wash.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We have more details this morning on how a manhunt ended in Washington State. After a massive search for a man suspected of killing four police officers, a lone patrolman found, shot and killed Maurice Clemmons early this morning. NPR's Martin Kaste has been following this story. He's on the line from Seattle. And Martin, how did this one police officer find the suspect?
MARTIN KASTE: Well, what police were telling us this morning in this south Seattle neighborhood is that this lone patrolman, as you say, happened across a car that was idling. There was no one inside. He looked it up, found it had been stolen just that night. And then around that time, he saw a man approaching the car. He challenged him, told him to stop. He apparently fled, and that's when he shot him.
INSKEEP: Did the police officer know who he was shooting then?
KASTE: We don't have a lot of details yet. We don't even know the identity of the patrolman yet. They haven't released that. So we don't have a lot of the nitty gritty detail there. But it seems to be that he was suspicious, obviously. That stolen car seemed to fit a pattern. But he did not know for sure, I think, until after he shot the man.
INSKEEP: Now, I suppose we should ask about the broader manhunt. Apparently, this police officer, in a sense, stumbled into Clemmons. He was alert, but was not necessarily looking for him. Other people were. How, if at all, had that affected the suspect's behavior?
KASTE: Well, this has been very frustrating for police here in Seattle, as well as in the Tacoma area. And they - yesterday, about - in the late afternoon, they started telling the press that they were finding that there was evidence that friends and acquaintances of the suspect were probably helping him to allude them. And as their frustration grew, they started to pressure those people, in fact, took some into custody late last night. And they believe that that disrupted a network of aid for Clemmons, and that effectively shoved him out onto the street.
INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Martin Kaste, who's piecing together what we know so far about the shooting of Maurice Clemmons, a suspect who, in turn, was accused of killing four police officers in a coffee shop on Sunday morning in Washington State. Martin, I want to ask about another part of this, because when we were reporting on this story yesterday, we were hearing about a suspect apparently holed up in a house, and they were calling for Clemmons to come out of a house. Once police got in, the house was empty. Was Clemmons ever there?
KASTE: They're not answering that direct question yet. They still believe that they had a good tip, that that house was connected to him. There was good reason to believe had been dropped off there by someone. The fact that he wasn't there when they finally stormed the house yesterday morning, to them does not necessarily mean has was never there, but they simply don't know right now whether he was there for sure.
INSKEEP: Even as we learn about Clemmons' shooting, is this becoming a political issue, Martin Kaste, because he's a man with a criminal record who has was accused of many crimes, and he was free?
KASTE: Well, it certainly triggered the blame game. Right now, there's been a lot of exchanges between Arkansas, his home state, where he received clemency from Governor Huckabee, who was the governor at the time, and Washington State, where he posted bail, even though he had eight felonies pending against him. There are a lot of angry questions being asked right now about why he was released, especially given his violent past and the fact that he was - he'd spent some time in jail on charges of raping a minor. He was still waiting for trial on that. And clearly, he was showing signs of mental instability. So there's a lot of question right now as to why he was released a week ago.
INSKEEP: I want to come back to this unnamed police officer who police say shot and killed Maurice Clemmons after encountering him early this morning. We mentioned that he was not formally part of the search, Martin Kaste, but I would imagine that any police officer within a hundred miles of Seattle or Tacoma knew about this case and had his eyes out for that man.
KASTE: I'd say any police officer within 500 miles. Everybody was on this. Yesterday, we were listening to the police scanner, and they were going after anything that looked like it might be remotely connected to this. There was some blood found in a park rest room, and they cordoned off the park and searched the woods of the - everybody was looking for this man.
INSKEEP: NPR's Martin Kaste is on Seattle. Martin, thanks very much.
KASTE: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.