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Suspect in police officer killings eludes capture in Seattle

Dale Steinbach of Lakewood prays at a memorial at Lakewood police station for four officers ambushed and killed.

Associated Press

Dale Steinbach of Lakewood prays at a memorial at Lakewood police station for four officers ambushed and killed.

SEATTLE — The hunt for a 37-year-old landscaper accused of killing four police officers expanded across western Washington on Monday, with investigators combing through hundreds of tips after an 11-hour siege of a Seattle house turned up empty.

"Right now, they're just following every lead they can, whether it's up in King County or down here in Pierce County," sheriff's spokeswoman Sheri Badger said.

Maurice Clemmons — a multiple felon accused of gunning down the four officers Sunday morning in a Parkland coffee shop — was shot in the torso during the altercation and likely is in need of medical attention, authorities said.

Students and staff at the University of Washington received a mass text message Monday warning them to be careful after one tipster saw a man resembling Clemmons near the university's medical center. A bus near downtown Seattle was vacated and impounded after someone else claimed they saw Clemmons aboard. Officers were looking for traces of blood.

"I don't want to put a number on it, but we've had a plethora of tips of people calling in, saying they see somebody that looks like the suspect. We respond, and it's not him," Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said.

Officials said they had evidence that Clemmons indeed had been in or near a house in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood Sunday night. They cordoned off surrounding streets, brought in a helicopter and surrounded the house with a large number of officers, deploying percussion grenades and chemical irritants.

But when a robot entered the house Monday morning, followed by a SWAT team, Clemmons was nowhere to be seen.

Authorities said they also were looking for his wife, Nicole Smith, with whom he recently operated a home-based landscaping and pressure washing business in Tacoma, about 2 miles from the scene of the shooting.

The reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest and conviction was raised to $125,000.

The slain officers were identified as Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; and officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42. All had been members of the Lakewood force since it started five years ago.

Suspect in police officer killings eludes capture in Seattle 11/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 11:32pm]

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