Monday, November 30, 2009

Four Cops Shot, Killed, in Washington State

Clockwise, from the upper left, Greg Richards, 42; Mark Renninger, 39; Tina Griswold, 40; and Ronald Owens, 37.

Four police officers in Lakewood, Washington were killed Sunday as they sat in a coffee shop just before the beginning of their shifts. Per witnesses, it was totally an ambush, as the killer first approached the counter as if to order, then turned away, produced the gun and shot methodically. The last officer struggled with the criminal and probably injured him before dying. The suspect, identified as Maurice Clemmons, 37, has an extensive criminal history.

That's the bare bones of the story.

First, look at the photos of the officers. They are not just blue uniforms, but real people, with lives like you and I. Take a moment to put real skin on these men and women. They were all married. They all had children. They probably had pets. They had friends, neighbors, church pals, sports buds, were customers and clients of services in the community. Perhaps they had hobbies like old cars, scrap booking, model trains, sports cards, boating, hunting, fishing. They probably loved their jobs as police officers. Each had over 10 years experience as officers. They all started out together at the Lakewood department when it was founded in 2004.

Now, I am going to take you from sad to seriously pissed off.

The suspect, Clemmons, apparently has roots in the Seattle area, but was living in Arkansas in the late 1980s when he committed a variety of crimes. He received a long sentence in Arkansas and had served 11 years when in May of 2000, his sentence was commuted and he was released from prison. He committed more crimes after release and somehow was not put back in prison immediately. During the early 2000s, he married, moved to Tacoma, WA and started a business. He apparently had been generally staying out of serious trouble, but he began to commit crimes again over the past year or so. He was on bond from charges in Washington of child rape, assault against a police officer and at least five other felonies and some domestic violence related charges as well. His family and witnesses relate episodes of manic, paranoid psychotic behavior over the past year. Now, Clemmons did receive a very long sentence for his crimes in Arkansas. He was convicted of several crimes with 10 year sentences and the judge ordered these sentences to be served consecutively. This meant he'd serve one sentence, then the next, then the next. He would not have gotten out of prison in Arkansas until 2042 or so. I can see why then Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee wanted to do something for the man. But releasing him at that point was too soon. And supervision of him was way too lax. As soon as he committed another crime, his butt needed to be returned to prison, and the full sentence put back on. Nor is there any record of him receiving any sort of help with any mental health issues he may have had. He was allowed to move to Washington in 2004 or 2005. By some miracle, at least as far as is known, he stayed out of trouble until this past year, when he started committing crimes again.

It makes me mad that Huckabee went against the prosecutor's office concerning the commutation he did. The prosecutor did not want Clemmons out at all. They were willing to reconsider some issues surrounding his sentence, but they were not in favor of his release. Huckabee ignored their objections. Further angering is that Clemmons returned to crime after his release in Arkansas, and through some technicality was not properly prosecuted. His butt should have gone back to jail! If his butt had been in jail where it was supposed to be, this horrible shooting may not have happened. Also, let's talk to the judge who gave bond in Washington--didn't he know Clemmon's history of violent crime in the past?

Our system is generally a terrific system. But every so often someone gets dumped out of jail who should have stayed there. First, let's catch Maurice Clemmons. Then, let's look at his case closely and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

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