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Originally published November 29, 2009 at 11:37 PM | Page modified November 30, 2009 at 6:26 AM

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Suspect let out of Pierce County jail one week ago

Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old man wanted for questioning in the killing of four Lakewood police officers Sunday morning, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.

Clemmons' record in Washington state

In July, Maurice Clemmons was arrested and charged with raping and molesting a 12-year-old female relative in May. The arrest occurred when he was seen in a Pierce County courtroom, attempting to quash warrants from other charges. He was held in the Pierce County Jail until his release last Monday after posting a $150,000 bond.

In May, Clemmons was arrested on two counts of third-degree assault and five counts of second-degree malicious mischief stemming from an incident when Pierce County sheriff's deputies responded to a disturbance report. Clemmons allegedly punched a deputy in the face, while the officers were struggling with two other men. Neighbors said Clemmons also had been throwing rocks through windows and cars, damaging at least five cars and three houses.

Source: Pierce County

Superior Court


Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old man wanted for questioning in the killing of four Lakewood police officers Sunday morning, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.

His criminal history includes at least five felony convictions in Arkansas and at least eight felony charges in Washington. That record also stands out for the number of times Clemmons has been released from custody despite questions about the danger he posed.

Mike Huckabee, while governor of Arkansas, granted clemency to Clemmons nine years ago, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors.

"This is the day I've been dreading for a long time," Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' Pulaski County, said Sunday night when informed that Clemmons was being sought in connection with the killings.

In Pierce County, Clemmons had been in jail for the past several months on a child-rape charge that carries a possible life sentence. He was released from custody one week ago, even though he was staring at eight felony charges in all.

Clemmons posted $15,000 with a Chehalis company called Jail Sucks Bail Bonds. The bondsman, in turn, put up $150,000, securing Clemmons' release on the child-rape charge.

Clemmons moved to Washington from Arkansas in 2004. He was placed under the supervision of the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) for an Arkansas conviction, according to a department spokesman. The DOC classified him as "high risk to reoffend." His supervision was to continue until October 2015, the spokesman said.

He lives in Tacoma, where he has run a landscaping and power-washing business out of his house. He is married, but the relationship has been tumultuous, with accounts of his unpredictable behavior leading to at least two run-ins with police this year.

Clemmons punched a Pierce County sheriff's deputy in the face during one confrontation, according to court records.

Two days later, at his home, Clemmons allegedly gathered his wife and two younger relatives at around 3 or 4 a.m. and had them all undress. He told them that families need to "be naked for at least five minutes on Sunday," a Pierce County sheriff's report says.

The family complied because they were afraid of Clemmons and thought he was growing increasingly erratic.

"The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus," the report says.

The Sheriff's Office interviewed Clemmons' sister in May. She said her brother "is not in his right mind and did not know how he could react when contacted by law enforcement," a sheriff's report says.

"She stated that he was saying that the Secret Service was coming to get him because he had written a letter to the president. ... She suspects he is having a mental breakdown," the report says.

Family members also told deputies that Clemmons claimed he could fly and expected President Obama to visit to "confirm that he is Messiah in the flesh."

While investigating this incident, deputies uncovered evidence that led to a charge that he had raped and molested a 12-year-old relative.

Prosecutors in Pierce County recently had requested a mental evaluation for Clemmons at Western State Hospital. On Nov. 6, a psychologist concluded that Clemmons was competent to stand trial on the child-rape and other felony charges, according to court records.

Long record in Arkansas

News accounts out of Arkansas offer a confusing — and, at times, conflicting — description of Clemmons' criminal history and prison time.

In 1990, Clemmons, then 18, was sentenced in Arkansas to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft, according to a news account. Responding to a circuit judge's comment that Clemmons had broken his mother's heart, Clemmons said, "I have broken my own heart."

Newspaper stories describe a series of disturbing incidents involving Clemmons while he was being tried in Arkansas on various charges.

During one trial, he was shackled in leg irons and seated next to a uniformed officer. The presiding judge ordered the extra security because he felt Clemmons had threatened him, court records show.

At other times, Clemmons was accused of hiding a piece of metal in his sock to use as a weapon; throwing a lock at a bailiff, and instead hitting his mother; and reaching for a guard's pistol while being transported to court.

Clemmons was arrested when he was a junior in high school for having a .25-caliber pistol on school property. Clemmons told police that he brought the gun to school because he had been "beaten by dopers" and that if they got after him again, he had "something for them," a newspaper account says.

When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he already was serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft and possessing a handgun on school property, according to a story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Clemmons served 11 years before being released. Then-Governor Huckabee, who was a Republican presidential candidate in 2008, commuted Clemmons' sentence. He cited Clemmons' young age, 17, at the time the crimes were committed, according to news reports.

Huckabee's statement

Huckabee, in a statement released Sunday night, said Clemmons' release from prison had been reviewed and approved by the Arkansas parole board.

If Clemmons is found responsible for the police killings, "it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal-justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State," Huckabee said.

After his release, Clemmons remained on parole. Soon after, he found trouble again. In March 2001, he was accused of violating his parole by committing aggravated robbery and theft, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

He was returned to prison on a parole violation. But in what appears to have been a mistake, he wasn't served with the arrest warrants until leaving prison three years later.

Clemmons' attorney argued that the charges should be dismissed because too much time had passed. Prosecutors thereafter dropped the charges.

On Sunday afternoon, Clemmons' sister, Latanya Clemmons, said she didn't know her brother was being sought in the police killings.

"Oh my," she said. "Last I knew he was in jail."

Clemmons' maternal grandmother, Lela Clemmons, 82, of Marianna, Ark., said her grandson lived in Marianna when he was young.

Later, as a teen, he lived in Little Rock, another relative said.

"All I know is he is a pretty good guy," Maurice Clemmons' grandmother said.

She said Maurice's mother, who worked in a nursing home, died four or five years ago, and that his father, a factory worker, died several years earlier.

Trouble at home

In addition to the child-rape charge, Clemmons faces seven felony charges and a misdemeanor count stemming from a May 9 disturbance outside his home, according to a probable-cause declaration.

When a Pierce County sheriff's deputy went to Clemmons' home at 12:45 p.m., two men, Eddie Lee Davis and Joseph Denton Pitts, were standing outside, the declaration says.

They told the deputy that Clemmons was inside the house.

But when the deputy tried to go in, Davis grabbed him by the wrist. Pitts joined in, and, while the three men struggled, Clemmons ran out of the house and punched the deputy in the face, the declaration says.

Another deputy arrived, and the two officers were able to gain control over Clemmons, Davis and Pitts. Both deputies suffered injuries during the fight, court records say.

Afterward, neighbors told deputies that Clemmons had been throwing rocks through windows and at cars. One resident was struck by a rock that crashed through the window.

At least five cars and three houses were damaged, including a car that belonged to Clemmons and his wife, the declaration says.

His wife "declined to complete domestic-violence paperwork," the declaration says, "but did tell deputies that she and Clemmons argued over a newly discovered child and theorized that this argument precipitated the rampage."

On Sunday, one neighbor said the fight ended only when an officer pulled a gun and threatened to shoot Clemmons. This same neighbor said one officer came to his door afterward with a black eye.

Clemmons moved into the home a couple of years ago and had a number of loud parties, this neighbor said.

Another neighbor, a 70-year-old man, said that Clemmons threw rocks through two of his plate-glass windows. After he tried talking to Clemmons, the neighbor walked away, only to have Clemmons throw a rock that hit him in the hand, splitting it open.

Until that day, Clemmons had been cordial and friendly and never had given anyone trouble, this neighbor said.

Contributors to this story include staff reporters Susan Kelleher, Jonathan Martin, Ken Armstrong, Steve Miletich, Jennifer Sullivan, Mike Carter and Jim Brunner, and news researchers Gene Balk and Miyoko Wolf. Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or

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