SEATTLE – The Seattle police officer who killed Lakewood, Wash. cop killer Maurice Clemmons took the stand Monday at an inquest into the shooting.
In the early hours of Dec. 1, 2009, Ofc. Benjamin L. Kelly opened fire after Clemmons approached his patrol car. Police have said Clemmons was shot when he reached for a gun. It was a weapon he had taken from one of the four Lakewood officers he killed two days earlier at a coffee shop.
Dashcam video from Kelly's patrol car was played in court. Kelly spotted a stolen Acura in South Seattle. It was a neighborhood in which Clemmons had reportedly been hiding out.
Within seconds of stopping, Kelly says he noticed a man in his rearview mirror, hooded and shuffling up to his patrol car.
"I turned to address him and that is basically when he looked up and I saw his face I immediately recognized him as Maurice Clemmons," said Kelly.
It's unclear why Washington's most wanted man approached a clearly marked police car.
"He gave me an 'Oh, crap' look of whatever he was thinking, it wasn't working out the way he had planned it and he immediately moved his hands towards the front of his body along his waistband area and then turned his upper body away from me," said Kelly.
When asked what he thought Clemmons was doing, Kelly responded "I believed he was going for a gun."
Kelly went on to say he fired an initial volley of three rounds followed a short time later by another volley of four rounds.
The video shows Clemmons running by the cruiser and into the darkness.
At the time when Kelly needed his police radio the most – to call for backup – it failed to transmit several calls. The radio finally did work just as Kelly realized the shots he fired did hit Clemmons. Kelly spotted the gravely wounded cop killer on the ground.
Clemmons died at the scene a short time later.
Before testimony began, King County judge Arthur Chapman spent Monday morning questioning potential jurors, asking them whether they can be impartial, about their experience with law enforcement and whether they know any of the people involved in the case, among other things.
The main question for the six person jury to answer is whether Kelly's life was in imminent danger when he used deadly force.
An inquest is standard in King County in fatal police shootings and will provide information that the prosecutor would use in deciding whether to file a charge. It is not a trial.
Testimony is expected to resume Tuesday.