Clemmons hit by 4 of 7 shots fired by Seattle officer
A six-person jury will continue deliberating Wednesday in the inquest into the slaying of Maurice Clemmons.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Maurice Clemmons was struck by four of seven gunshots fired by Seattle police Officer Benjamin L. Kelly during an early-morning encounter in South Seattle on Dec. 1, a jury heard Tuesday morning in the second day of a shooting inquest.
Seattle police Detective Al Cruise said Clemmons had also suffered a fifth wound from a gunshot fired by Greg Richards, one of four Lakewood police officers killed by Clemmons two days earlier in a Parkland, Pierce County, coffee shop.
Two of the wounds inflicted by Kelly were considered fatal, Dr. Aldo Fusaro, of the King County Medical Examiner's Office, testified before an inquest jury in King County District Court.
Marking an anatomical drawing set up before the jury, Fusaro pointed out where bullets struck Clemmons: in the back, chest, arm, abdomen and thigh. Clemmons also had abrasions to his face, believed to have been caused by Seattle police when they dragged him from the walkway where he had collapsed after being shot.
The six-person inquest jury, which heard testimony Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, began weighing a series of question Tuesday afternoon but did not conclude its deliberations. Deliberations resumed at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Chief among the questions is whether Kelly believed he was in imminent danger when he fatally shot Clemmons while investigating a stolen car. The shooting ended an intense manhunt for Clemmons two days after he ambushed four police officers in the coffee shop.
Rather than reach a conclusion of guilty or not guilty, inquest juries oversee fact-finding hearings to weigh evidence after a police officer uses lethal force while on duty. The King County Prosecutor's Office will review the jury's findings to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
Since the hearing began Monday afternoon, jurors heard compelling testimony from Kelly, the South Precinct patrol officer who encountered Clemmons while investigating a stolen car left running on a quiet residential street. Kelly testified Monday that Clemmons ignored several commands to remove his hands from his waistband area as he approached the officer in the dark.
Kelly, fearing for his life, fired three shots at Clemmons, who then ran away. Kelly quickly fired another four shots as Clemmons moved away.
A third bullet fired by Kelly — a "through-and-through" that entered Clemmons' lower back, hit his kidney and bowel before exiting his upper abdomen — also could have been fatal if left untreated, Fusaro testified Tuesday morning.
On Nov. 29, Clemmons killed Lakewood Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards, setting off an intense two-day manhunt.
Speaking publicly for the first time Monday, Kelly testified that when he started his overnight patrol shift on the night of Nov. 30, the thought that he might encounter the region's most-wanted felon crossed his mind.
But when Kelly actually came face to face with Clemmons, the officer's first thought was, "I'm in trouble here."
Kelly testified he repeatedly ordered Clemmons to show his hands as the officer drew his gun. "I thought I could be dead in a matter of seconds," Kelly said.
Instead, Clemmons moved his hands toward his sweat-shirt pocket and raced around the front of Kelly's car, the officer testified. Kelly said he fired three shots, then four more as Clemmons ran away "in a dead sprint."
"I believed he was going for a gun. I discharged my duty weapon," Kelly said. "My intent was to stop him."
A video shot from Kelly's patrol car — shown to the inquest jurors — shows Clemmons racing around the front of the car, limping slightly. Clemmons, 37, made it to the sidewalk, out of Kelly's view, before collapsing face down on a walkway leading to a home.
In testimony Tuesday, Cruise said investigators now believe the stolen Acura Integra was left for Clemmons by an unknown associate. That car had been reported stolen at 12:38 a.m. from a home just a few blocks from where Kelly later found it.
Officer Daina Bogg, among the first to arrive on the scene after the shooting, testified that she found the duty weapon belonging to Richards, the slain Lakewood police officer, in Clemmons' pocket. She said she had trouble removing it because the gun was caught on the zipper.
Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Steve Miletich and Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org