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Originally published November 29, 2009 at 11:44 PM | Page modified November 29, 2009 at 11:59 PM

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Shootings worst attack on police in state history

A SWAT team and police negotiators surrounded a Leschi home in Seattle late Sunday night where the man sought in the Lakewood police shooting...

A SWAT team and police negotiators surrounded a Leschi home in Seattle late Sunday night where the man sought in the Lakewood police shooting may have been hiding.

Police surrounded the home at East Yesler Way and 32nd Avenue South, where a woman told them Maurice Clemmons, 37, was on the property and bleeding, according to a law-enforcement source.

More than 12 hours earlier, police had converged on an upscale coffee shop in Pierce County, a hangout for officers that became the scene of the deadliest attack on law enforcement in state history Sunday.

Four officers were shot and killed at 8:15 a.m. as they worked on their laptops at Forza Coffee Company in Parkland. The first two officers were "flat-out executed," while the third tried to stop the gunman and the fourth fired at him, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Those killed were identified as Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Gregory Richards, 42.

Clemmons has a long criminal record in Arkansas and Washington. He was released from custody in Pierce County just a week ago, and was facing a charge of raping a child. Family members described him as being in a state of mental deterioration. Last spring, he was also accused of punching a sheriff's deputy in the face.

Sunday's shootings came as officers from across the state were still coming to terms with last month's ambush-slaying of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton. The two incidents do not appear related, police said.

The coffee shop, in a strip mall across the street from McChord Air Force Base, is favored by officers from several nearby jurisdictions.

Troyer said the scruffy-looking gunman entered the shop, walked past the officers and three or four other customers, and approached the counter.

A young barista asked the man if she could help him, according to Humberto Navarrete, 51, who lives nearby and later spoke to the barista. The man stared at the barista without saying a word and then opened his coat, revealing a handgun, Navarrete said.

The barista and another female barista on duty ran out the back, according to Navarrete. The gunman turned and started shooting at the officers, he said, quoting the women.

"This was a targeted, selective ambush," Troyer said.


The officers, who made up one patrol unit, were regulars at the coffee shop. They were wearing bulletproof vests and were preparing to start their day shift, Troyer said.

The first two officers apparently had no time to react. The third officer stood up and tried to go for the gunman before being shot, Troyer said. The fourth officer struggled with the gunman, wrestled him out the door and managed to fire off some shots before he, too, was killed, Troyer said.

It's not clear if the gunman was injured by gunshots.

"It's carnage out front everywhere," Troyer said, describing the front of the coffee shop. "It's like a bad horror movie, it's horrible."

Navarrete, a financial manager who lives a block from the coffee shop, said he was in a nearby AM-PM minimart Sunday morning when the two baristas from the coffee shop ran into the store crying and upset.

Brad Carpenter, CEO of Forza Coffee, met with the two young baristas after they were interviewed by police and said they were shaken up.

The slain officers were "well-known to our staff," said Carpenter, a retired police officer from Oakland, Calif., and Gig Harbor.

"It's supposed to be a safe haven for everybody," he said of the coffee shop.

When the 911 calls started coming in, officers from Lakewood, Tacoma and other jurisdictions raced to the area.

"I have never seen this many scramble to a particular spot, ever," said David Gabrielson, 27, who works as clerk at a gas station near the coffee shop.

An apparent hoax came when a man called 911, claiming to be the shooter. Police took the man into custody at a Parkland house, but he was not linked to the crime, Troyer said.

A second likely hoax came after a Tacoma man called his girlfriend and some other people and falsely claimed responsibility for the shooting, Troyer said. The man has since been arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police investigation.

That hoax sparked the search of vehicles parked outside Evergreen Self Storage, a facility near the shooting scene. The Pierce County bomb squad was dispatched to the storage facility.

Authorities remained on edge all day. At one point, Troyer, who was carrying an assault rifle, told members of the media, "this is kind of a hot area, so you're kind of on your own."

Heavily armed police on Sunday surrounded the Tacoma home of Clemmons' wife, not far from the shooting scene. It didn't appear anyone was home. Later Sunday night they served a search warrant at the home.

Troyer said police found a GPS ankle bracelet during a search of a house where Clemmons was believed to have been staying. Clemmons was required to wear an ankle bracelet under terms of his recent release.

Troyer said if the gunman was shot, he could be traveling some distance to get care. Troyer suggested the man may try to visit a medical facility and claim he had suffered an accidental gunshot wound.

The shootings rank as the worst attack on law enforcement in state history. Three Seattle police were shot and killed by a gunman in January 1921.

Carpenter, the Forza CEO, said donation boxes to help the families of the slain officers will be in place today at all 22 Forza stores in Washington and Colorado, and that information would be placed on the company Web site about making contributions.

Several hundred mourners gathered at Champions Centre, a church in Tacoma, for a memorial service for the officers Sunday night. And a procession of vehicles accompanied two vehicles that transported the bodies from Parkland to the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office in Tacoma.

Seattle Times staff reporters Sara Jean Green, Mike Carter, Steve Miletich, Jonathan Martin, Nick Perry, Jennifer Sullivan and Christine Clarridge and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this report.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or

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