TACOMA, Wash. – The suspected getaway driver for the man who shot and killed four Lakewood police officers in a coffee shop last November has been charged with four counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
Darcus Dewayne Allen pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the murders of Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards. The aggravated circumstances means Allen could face the death penalty, but Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist says he hasn't decided yet whether he will seek that or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors say Allen provided gunman Maurice Clemmons with transportation to and from Forza coffee shop at 11401 S. Steele Street, where the murders took place, on Nov. 29. Prosecutors say Allen waited nearby with the getaway vehicle while Clemmons committed the murders.
"When you help a criminal, you become a criminal," said Lindquist in a statement. "And when you help a murderer, knowing he intends to commit murder, you're an accomplice to murder. Clemmons repeatedly told Darcus Allen and others that he intended to kill cops. By driving Maurice Clemmons to the murder scene, knowing Clemmons intended to kill officers, Allen became an accomplice to Aggravated Murder."
Prosecutors say Allen met Clemmons in Arkansas when they both were serving time in prison.
According to charging documents, Allen was at Thanksgiving dinner with Clemmons and others three days before the shootings when Clemmons told them he planned to murder police officers. Clemmons allegedly told everyone that he would cut off his the ankle bracelet monitor he was currently wearing, due to a court order, in order to lure police to his door. At that point, he would shoot them.
"Knock, knock, knock, boom!" he said, according to prosecutors.
The documents say Clemmons displayed a handgun he said he would use to carry out the crime and he talked about murdering people other than police officers, including school children. One relative present says she told Clemmons not to “talk like this” but Darcus Allen did not obejct to Clemmons' threats, the documents say.
“I don’t understand why somebody in the family didn’t turn him in, didn’t say something,” says next door neighbor Kathy Underwood.
Clemmons allegedly cut off his ankle bracelet two days later, but no police arrived.
The next day, Nov. 29, prosecutors say Clemmons and Allen drove past the Forza coffee shop twice at about 8 a.m. and saw marked police cars parked outside. Allen pulled the truck into a nearby car wash while Clemmons went to the coffee shop. Witnesses say it appeared Allen was only pretending to wash the truck, saying he had a spray-wand in his hand but that the water was not turned on.
Prosecutors say Clemmons walked in the coffee shop with a .38 caliber revolver and a 9mm semi-automatic handgun. He shot Renninger and Griswold before they could react, then shot Owens. Clemmons and Richards struggled. Clemmons was shot in the back, but he eventually got a hold of Richards' gun and shot and killed him.
Baristas fled the shop to a gas station across the street from the car wash. Prosecutors say they saw Clemmons get into the truck with Allen and drove away.
Prosecutors say other accomplices helped Clemmons by transporting him to Seattle, giving him a place to rest and treating his wounds.
In the early hours of Dec. 1, Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer. Clemmons allegedly still had Officer Richards' gun on him in his sweatshirt pocket.
Allen and Clemmons' sister were arrested later that day at a motel in Federal Way, where prosecutors say Allen had checked in under a false name.
Prosecutors say Allen changed his story several times when interviewed by detectives. At first, detectives say Allen told them that he refused a request by Clemmons to take the truck to be washed.
Later, Allen allegedly said he lied and claimed to have taken the truck to be washed, but didn't know Clemmons intended to murder the officers. Prosecutors also say that Allen claimed he got out the truck and took a bus home after seeing blood on Clemmons' shirt during the getaway. He said that Clemmons slid over to the driver's side of the truck and left. But, detectives say while there was blood found on the passenger's side of the truck, there was no blood on the driver's side.
The charging documents also allege that Allen admitted to hearing Clemmons repeatedly talk about wanting to kill police officers and admitted to seeing police cars outside Forza right before he went to the car wash.
Others charged in the case include:
- Ricky Hinton - three counts of Rendering Criminal Assistance in the First Degree.
- Douglas Davis - four counts of Rendering Criminal Assistance in the First Degree, two counts of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the First Degree, and one count of Possession of a Stolen Firearm.
- Eddie Davis - four counts of Rendering Criminal Assistance in the First Degree, three counts of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the Second Degree, and one count of Possession of a Stolen Firearm.
- Letrecia Nelson - six counts of Rendering Criminal Assistance in the First Degree and one count of Possession of a Stolen Firearm.
- Quiana Williams - five counts of Rendering Criminal Assistance in the First Degree.
- Latanya Clemmons - four counts of Rendering Criminal Assistance in the First Degree.