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Originally published December 3, 2009 at 12:05 AM | Page modified December 22, 2009 at 9:28 AM

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Trusted aunt chose to do the 'right thing'

Her nephew is dead. Her home is a mess. But Chrisceda Clemmons did the right thing when she called police to tell them that the man wanted for killing four police officers was headed to her home.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Coverage from the days following the Lakewood shootings

Tuesday memorial to four officers comes together swiftly

Lakewood Officer Tina Griswold was a 'ball of fire' in a tiny package

A path to murder: The story of Maurice Clemmons

Gallery | Maurice Clemmons: Path to Murder

Officer Gregory Richards was 'the golden boy'

Officer Richards' wife knew he would do his duty, no matter what

Lakewood Police Officer Ronald Owens was always smiling

Prosecutors want Clemmons' sister held in custody

Clemmons' sister taken into custody in courtroom

Clemmons repeatedly slipped through the cracks

Bank accounts may be sign Clemmons planned getaway

Lakewood Police Sgt. Mark Renninger was devoted to family, dedicated to police work

Bail-bond agents gamble on unknown

Clemmons' sister arrested during court hearing

Repeat offenders would be denied bail under measure

Nicole Brodeur | Help is coming for aunt

Clemmons traveled to meet New York minister, citing God's instructions

Clemmons' half-brother charged with helping killer elude police

Clemmons investigated by drug enforcement authorities after he moved here in 2004

More than 20,000 people expected at Tuesday's memorial for officers

Arkansas governor and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire confer on parolees, Clemmons

Coffee shop where officers killed remains closed

Details on Tuesday memorial for four slain officers

Trusted aunt chose to do the 'right thing'

Clemmons' driver denies knowledge of plot to kill

Over 2,000 attend Lakewood vigil for 4 slain officers

Graham neighborhood embraces grieving family

Alleged accomplice used an alias

Coffee shop where officers killed remains closed

Who leaked photo of Clemmons' body? Investigations launched

Clemmons couldn't be held after 'safety net' dissolved

Calendar of memorials and vigils for slain Lakewood officers

Loyal friends, family helped Clemmons flee police

Gregoire: no more Arkansas parolees

Alleged getaway driver in officers' slaying could face murder charges

Uncle: 'He was all about money ... suddenly, he was all about God'

Routine stolen-car check led to Lakewood police-slaying suspect

Danny Westneat | Fixing blame won't fix this mess

Jerry Large | Answers more than skin deep

Public brings flowers, candles, prayers for fallen officers

E-mails show Washington state battled to keep Clemmons in custody

States at odds over warrant that might have kept Clemmons in jail

2 men charged, several others suspected of aiding alleged cop killer

Lakewood police shooting suspect shot dead by police in South Seattle early this morning

Memorial for slain officers to be next Tuesday at Tacoma Dome

Outpouring of support for families of slain officers grows

Four days in May set stage for Sunday's tragedy

Clemmons' diagnosis: stress

Persuasive appeal helped Clemmons win clemency

Political death blow for Huckabee?

How you can help

Law-enforcement officials believe Clemmons has been sheltered by family, friends

Attack on Lakewood police likely worst in state history

Slain Lakewood officers leave holes in community fabric

Furious hunt for suspect in Lakewood police slayings creates unease for black men

Grief, gratitude for slain officers

'Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom': Neighbors describe shooting of suspect

Nicole Brodeur: Breathless in Leschi — and it's not the view

RAW VIDEO: Scene where Clemmons shot by police

AUDIO | Suspect killed in Seattle

Interactive map and timeline

See the latest tweets on #WAshooting, #lakeshoot and #WAshoot

Gallery | Maurice Clemmons Killed, Community Mourns Slain Officers

Gallery | Ceda Clemmons' Damaged Home

Monday coverage

Suspect released in Arkansas after claiming he had changed

Gallery | Police search for suspected cop killer

Gallery | Lakewood police officers killed

Video | Community reflects on slain police

Video | Police shooting: Man who helped baristas

Video | SPD Det. Jeff Kappel speaks about 11-hour standoff

Brenton family statement on slain Lakewood officers

Latest on Lakewood shooting: Police searching near Dr. José Rizal Park

Police still searching for suspected cop killer

Sunday coverage

Police union sets up fund for slain officers

Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee has controversial record of freeing criminals

Lakewood Police Department created just 5 years ago

Police again see themselves as targets

Slain officers respected for careers, family life

Lakewood police slayings appear to be worst of their kind in state history

Shocked, grieving community holds vigil for officers

Coffee house owner: Shootings 'hit close to home'

Maurice Clemmons clemency and parole documents (PDF)

Statement from Mayor Douglas Richardson and City Manager Andrew Neiditz (PDF)

City of Lakewood identifies officers (PDF)

Related links

Law justifying use of deadly force

Facebook page honoring fallen officers | Eyewitness accounts

Video | Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer discusses Lakewood slaying


"I am coming to your house," he said. "I have killed four policemen and I need a place to rest and hide."

We know now who that was: Maurice Clemmons, the man who ambushed four Lakewood police officers Sunday morning, killing them all.

But to Chrisceda Clemmons, 45, the voice on the phone Sunday night belonged to her nephew Maurice. Her sister Dorothy Mae's son. The kid she used to baby-sit back home in Arkansas. The man who seemed determined to succeed, but who had also started to lose his mind last May.

He was in a car, on his way to his aunt's Leschi home, where she lives with her husband, Michael Shantz, 58; their two children, Atticus, 13, and Juno, 7, and a friend's daughter, Alanna, 15. Shantz's two older sons, Ab, 25, and Teo, 21, who rent a house nearby, were also there.

They knew almost nothing about the events of the day: the shootings in the Lakewood coffee shop or the massive manhunt for Clemmons, who had been shot by one of the officers before the officer died.

Chrisceda Clemmons and Shantz had spent the day in Lynnwood, where their band, Bakra Bata, had played at the opening of a transit station. Shantz had glanced at The New York Times online that morning and saw something about four officers in Tacoma, but forgot about it.

Their performance ended at 4 p.m., but they didn't get home until 6. It was almost 7 when the phone rang.

"Maurice sounded pretty normal, just a little hyped," Chrisceda Clemmons remembered Wednesday. "He didn't sound weak from his gunshot."

He would call a total of four times, talking for a bit, then hanging up — but always getting closer. He said he was trying to get as far away from Tacoma as he could. He felt safe in her neighborhood, he said, and thought she and her husband might help him by renting a car and driving him to Arkansas — the place he always considered home.

"He trusted me," Chrisceda Clemmons said. "He trusted that I wouldn't turn him in."

But she did. And she was the only one. Other friends and family are accused of helping Clemmons escape the shooting scene, tending to his gunshot wound, washing his bloody clothes and keeping him out of law enforcement's reach.

But Chrisceda Clemmons couldn't do that. She had to think of her family. And she knew her nephew was not well. There was the time last May at his house in Tacoma when "he got angry at something" and started throwing rocks at his neighbors' houses and cars. One hit an elderly man. Later Clemmons assaulted two sheriff's deputies.

And there were allegations of child rape and "religious delusions," Shantz said, that included Clemmons' belief that he was God, and that swine flu was the apocalypse.

Now this. Four cops dead, and he was headed their way.

"I was in shock," Chrisceda Clemmons said. "That's when we gathered the kids up and sent them away. I believed Maurice when he said he had killed people. I knew he was very angry and frustrated. He was paranoid, and he was very frustrated and sick of the police."

"Tired of these bitches," is how he put it. He told her he had shot the officers intentionally, and believed that they were trying to charge him with rape, which would have given him "three strikes" and sent him back to prison for life.

She asked Maurice if he was armed. Yes, he said.

Shantz told him: "You cannot come to the house. Period."

He asked Maurice if he was willing to get rid of the gun. No.

"Probably an hour passed, and I was getting more panicked," Chrisceda Clemmons said. "Then I just got into the car with Michael and said, 'Let's go.' "

It was about 8 p.m. when they drove to the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct. Shantz went in and left his wife in the car. They knew that it was going to be a long night and hoped that at least one of them would be able to get to their kids, who were staying with Shantz's sons.

"I'm here to talk to someone about Maurice Clemmons," Shantz told the officer at the desk. "I have factual information about his whereabouts."

The officer, who was on the phone, told him to take a seat.

Fifteen minutes later, Shantz told his story, Chrisceda Clemmons was brought in and before long, an army of police officers descended on their neighborhood. There were snipers on roofs, police everywhere. Neighbors couldn't get to their homes. The siege went on all night.

Still, "we don't know if Maurice was ever in the house," Shantz said. "The sergeant on the scene called and told me he saw 'him' get out of a car and go up on the porch, but then we got cut off."

Dawn arrived. Maurice Clemmons was nowhere to be found.

His aunt doesn't understand how he could have gotten away.

"They have all this manpower, snipers on all these roofs and they let this wounded man escape," she said.

A wounded man who was her nephew. Who trusted her.

"Do I feel badly?" she asked. "Yes, I feel bad, but it was the right thing to do because I didn't want him to hurt any more people."

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer agrees.

"Absolutely, she did the right thing," he said.

But her nephew is dead, shot by a Seattle police officer early Tuesday morning.

"I was actually relieved," she said. "That he died was the best thing for him. He would rather die than go back to prison."

Still, "I felt it was a terrible tragedy that he had to lose his life because of his mental disability," she said.

And she feels awful about the Lakewood officers. Their families. Their children. "It's a terrible tragedy for anyone to lose their lives this way, and I'm sorry."

Now the cleanup begins.

Chrisceda Clemmons is looking for a lawyer to volunteer to help her family through their legal morass.

And the house where she and Shantz have lived for 21 years is trashed from the long police siege. The couple will have to clear a judicial review, they said, before they can receive restitution for the damage that was done.

There is a lot of it: Every window broken, furniture and musical instruments tossed all around. There are tear-gas casings piled by the front door, which has a hole punched in it.

Shantz has been researching how to clean up the tear-gas residue that covers almost everything, and purchased jumpsuits and gas masks for the task.

Stand inside too long and your eyes begin to water.

Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334 or

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