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Wash. police shot dead

PARKLAND, Wash. — A man with an extensive criminal past was being sought Sunday in a deadly ambush on four police officers who were gunned down inside a coffee shop about 35 miles south of Seattle.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told reporters that Maurice Clemmons, 37, was believed to have been in the area around the time of the shooting, but declined to say what evidence might link him to the shooting.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas, including aggravated robbery and theft, the Sheriff's Office said. He also recently was arrested and charged in Washington state and charged with assaulting a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child. Using a bail bondsman, he posted $150,000 and was released from jail last week.

Still unclear was why a man entered the coffee shop and gunned down Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39; and Officers Ronald Owens, 37; Tina Griswold, 40; and Greg Richards 42.

"We have no motive at all," Troyer said. "I don't think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense."

Troyer said the attack was clearly targeted at the officers, not a robbery gone bad. "This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mind-set to shoot police officers," he said. "There were marked patrol cars outside, and they were all in uniform."

The four officers were with the 100-member Police Department of Lakewood, which adjoins the unincorporated area of Parkland, where the shootings took place.

Richards' sister-in-law, Melanie Burwell, called the shooting "senseless."

"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," she said. "If there were more people in the world like Greg, things like this wouldn't happen."

An impromptu memorial of an American flag, flowers and candles decorated the front yard at Renninger's home. His family declined to speak with reporters.

On Sunday night, a motorcade of dozens of police cars and motorcycles with lights flashing escorted the bodies of the four officers to the Medical Examiner's Office.

Troyer said investigators believe two of the officers were killed while sitting in the shop, and a third was shot dead after standing up. 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. "We hope that he hit him." Investigators were asking medical providers to report any gunshot wounds.

In 1989, Clemmons, then 17, was convicted in Little Rock for aggravated robbery. He was paroled in 2000 after then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons' 95-year prison sentence. Huckabee, who was criticized during his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 for granting many clemencies and commutations, cited Clemmons' youth. Clemmons later violated his parole, was returned to prison and released in 2004.

Troyer said the gunman entered the coffee house and walked toward the counter as if to place an order. A barista saw a gun when the man opened his jacket and fled out the back door. The man then turned and opened fire on the officers as they sat working on their laptops.

Troyer said the officers were catching up on paperwork at the beginning of their shifts when they were attacked at 8:15 a.m.

Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. None was injured. All were interviewed by the Pierce County sheriff's investigators.

The coffee shop, part of a popular local chain, is on a side street near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, south of Seattle. The shop is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.

There was no indication of any connection with the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer. Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested in that shooting.

The officers

Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, with 13 years of law-enforcement experience, is survived by his wife and three children.

Ronald Owens, 37, who spent 12 years in law enforcement, is survived by a former wife and a daughter.

Tina Griswold, 40, a 14-year veteran officer, is survived by her husband and two children.

Greg Richards, 42, who had eight years of law-enforcement experience, is survived by his wife and three children.



The officers

Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, with 13 years of law-enforcement experience, is survived by his wife and three children.

Ronald Owens, 37, who spent 12 years in law enforcement, is survived by a former wife and a daughter.

Tina Griswold, 40, a 14-year veteran officer, is survived by her husband and two children.

Greg Richards, 42, who had eight years of law-enforcement experience, is survived by his wife and three children.

Wash. police shot dead 11/29/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 12:22am]

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