Police: Friends, family helping suspected police killer

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by KING5.com and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on November 30, 2009 at 9:08 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 30 at 11:39 PM

SEATTLE -  Authorities believe the man sought in the slaying of four police officers is still alive and has been aided by a network of friends and family, a police spokesman said Monday night.

Officers surrounded a house in Renton Monday evening, the second time in two days police had circled a home in their search for suspected police killer Maurice Clemmons. Police questioned residents who may have aided the suspect since the Sunday morning shootings, Pierce County Sheriff's office spokesman Ed Troyer said.

"So far, we know they've provided him rides. They've provided him money, They've provided him places to stay. They've done things to distract us to send us in different directions," said Troyer.

Officers believe Clemmons was shot in the abdomen during the attack on the officers at a Parkland coffee shop. The 37-year-old may have received medical help and money from friends or family, Troyer said. And police believe some of those questioned have misled investigators to help Clemmons remain at large, he said.

"If this man goes out and kills another police officer or kills a citizen and these people have helped him get away, then I would expect the prosecutor would take a hard look at charging them as an accessory," Troyer added.

Police are certain Clemmons was in a Seattle house on Sunday night, but was able to flee before police could contain the area. Police staked out that house overnight before SWAT team members determined early Monday that Clemmons wasn't there.

Clemmons has had access to handguns, rifles and shotguns, Troyer said.

Monday morning's realization that the suspect had not been cornered after all prompted police to fan out across the city, looking for any sign of Clemmons. Authorities posted a $125,000 reward for information leading to his arrest in the Sunday morning shooting rampage. Tip lines set in the case are (253) 591-5959 or (866) 977-2362.

Killed were Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and Officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42.

Police said they are not sure what prompted Clemmons to assassinate the officers as they worked on their laptop computers at the beginning of their shifts. He was described as increasingly erratic in the past few months and had been arrested earlier this year on charges that he punched a sheriff's deputy in the face.

Two state psychologists called Clemmons dangerous in a court-ordered report last month. The News Tribune reports the psychologists said they believed Clemmons had "an increased risk for future dangerous behavior and jeopardizing public safety." However, they said they had insufficient grounds to recommend Clemons be civilly committed.

The court ordered the evaluation as part of the assault case and a child rape case against Clemons.

Police also say Clemmons bragged to friends the night before the shooting that he was planning on killing police officers.

Authorities said the gunman singled out the officers and spared employees and other customers at the coffee shop. He then fled, but not before he was apparently shot in the torso by one of the dying officers.

Police spent Monday frantically chasing leads, visiting hundreds of locations as they followed up on tips. Tactical teams responded to Seattle's Cowen Park after a reported large amount of blood was found on a park bench. Since police believe Clemmons is wounded, they shut down the park to investigate.

University of Washington officials alerted students by e-mail and text messages to an unconfirmed report that Clemmons might have gotten off a bus on or near the campus.

There was another large response in Seattle's International District after bloody bandages were found on Maynard Street.

Investigators also examined the coffee shop for clues. Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Dave McDonald said that authorities found a handgun carried by the killer, along with a pickup truck belonging to the suspect with blood stains inside.

There was no indication of any connection between Sunday's killings and the Halloween night shooting of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton.

Authorities say the man charged with that shooting also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a "one-man war" against law enforcement. Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested after being wounded in a firefight with police days after the Seattle shooting.

The officers killed Sunday had received no threats, sheriff's officials said.

"We won't know if it's a copycat effect or what it was until we get the case solved," Troyer said.

Brenton family issues statement

The family of Officer Timothy Brenton issued a statement Monday, saying that they have asked that the Brenton Family Assistance Fund be closed, and urging people who want to make donations to send them to the fund for the Lakewood officers.

"Our hearts ache for the families of Sergeant Mark Renninger, Officer Tina Griswold, Officer Ronald Owens and Officer Gregory Richards. We pray that they will be granted strength during this time of unbearable grief. Our thoughts are also with the officers of the Lakewood Police Department who continue to provide public safety services to the citizens of Lakewood. Their families are painfully aware of the risks that are inherent in their loved ones' chosen profession," the statement said. "We remain hopeful for the swift capture of the monster who robbed them of their husband, wife, father, mother, son and daughter. Our family has been comforted by the citizens of Seattle, the Pacific Northwest and beyond who have offered their prayers and support over the past weeks. For this, we are thankful."

A benevolent account has been established for the families of the Lakewood officers. Donations may be sent to LPIG Benevolent Fund at PO Box 99579, Lakewood, WA 98499. You can also CLICK HERE to submit donations online.

Editor's note: During the coverage of this developing story, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department has alleged that its investigation into the shootings was hampered by KING TVs news helicopter, which was flying over the Lakewood area. KING TV maintains that its aircraft was operating in compliance with FAA flight rules at the time and that the aircraft was moved from the area.

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