SEATTLE — A lone officer on patrol at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday spotted a stolen car, its hood up and engine running, and pulled over to check it out. As the patrolman sat in his cruiser, a burly man with a large mole on his cheek came up from behind.
The officer turned and instantly recognized the most wanted man in the Pacific Northwest — the convict accused of gunning down four officers at a coffee shop on Sunday.
Moments later, Maurice Clemmons, 37, lay dead in the street, shot by the patrolman after Clemmons made a move for a gun he had taken from one of the slain officers, police said.
Clemmons' death brought to an end two days of fear across the Seattle-Tacoma area and one of the biggest manhunts the region has ever seen. Dozens of police officers milled around at the scene afterward, some solemnly shaking hands and patting each other on the back.
"Good thing he wasn't able to get the gun out here or we might have had a different ending to this whole thing," Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said. "The officer in Seattle did a good job of making sure he went home safe tonight."
Clemmons eluded capture thanks to family and friends who provided him with shelter, cell phones, cash and first aid for the severe belly wound he suffered when one of the dying officers in Sunday's coffee-shop rampage got off a shot, police said. Six or seven of those associates were being arrested Tuesday.
Among them were an accomplice who drove the getaway truck after the rampage and Clemmons' sister, who bandaged him up and gave him a lift to a house in Seattle, police said.
It was not clear exactly where Clemmons was while on the run. Police rushed from place to place, following tips that often came up empty or yielded only accomplices. They searched homes and apartments around the city and cordoned off a park after a report of blood in a restroom.
Clemmons has a violent, erratic past, and authorities in Washington state and Arkansas — where then-Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2000 commuted his 108-year prison sentence for armed robbery and other offenses — are facing tough questions about why an apparently violent and deranged man was out on the street.
On Sunday, six days after posting bail in Washington state on charges of raping a child, Clemmons walked into a coffee shop in suburban Tacoma and killed four Lakewood police officers as they caught up on paperwork on their laptops, police said.
"The only motive that we have is he decided he was going to go kill police officers," Troyer said. Investigators also reported that Clemmons told others the night before the shooting that he was going to kill police and they should watch the news, but they wrote it off as "crazy talk."
In a statement posted on the conservative Newsmax.com Web site, Huckabee said: "I take full responsibility for my actions of nine years ago. I acted on the facts presented to me in 2000. If I could have possibly known what Clemmons would do nine years later, I obviously would have made a different decision. But if the same file was presented to me today, I would have likely made the same decision."
The Seattle patrol officer who killed Clemmons, Benjamin L. Kelly, 39, a seven-year law enforcement veteran, will be placed on leave, which is standard procedure after a shooting.