(Eds Note: This was originally posted this morning at 4:30 a.m., but since it IS the news we're moving it up to the top of the blog. You can catch our previous coverage of the story here. Updates throughout
A region-wide manhunt for the suspected killer of four Lakewood police officers finally came to an end Tuesday morning—not under the spotlights of police helicopters in a major police operation, but after an apparent chance encounter between a patrol officer and murder suspect Maurice Clemmons in South Seattle.
According to Assistant Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel says a lone patrol officer spotted a stolen Acura Integra left running with the hood up in the 4400 block of S Kenyon this morning and began examining the vehicle. Police say the vehicle was stolen from the 4800 block of S Chicago street less than an hour earlier.
As the officer sat in his car filling out paperwork, police say Clemmons approached the patrol car on the driver's side. The officer, Benjamin L. Kelly, a four and a half year veteran of the department, got out of the car ordered Clemmons to stop and show his hands. Clemmons ran north through the yard of a nearby home, and Officer Kelly called for backup. Patrol and K9 units were immediately dispatched. Police say as Officer Kelly reached for his weapon, Clemmons reached for the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. The officer fired several rounds, striking Clemmons twice, and fatally wounding him.
As a swarm of officers arrived at the scene, Clemmons lay bleeding on the ground. Although he'd been shot, Clemmons was still moving, had his hands tucked underneath him. Police approached with extreme caution, using a tactical shield as they moved in. Police now say they found a handgun in Clemmons' sweatshirt pocket which was taken from one of the Lakewood police officers killed Sunday morning.
Over the next few days, Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer expects police to arrest six or seven people for assisting Clemmons. "Some are friends, some are acquaintances, some are partners in crime, some are relatives," Troyer said. "Now they're all partners in crime."
According to Troyer, family members provided Clemmons with cell phones and money and were attempting to get him out of the state. "They’re going to pay for it," he said.
So far, police have arrested four people for "rendering criminal assistance" to Clemmons, including members of his family and a suspected getaway driver, who police were on the lookout for late Sunday night in Leschi as SWAT teams moved in on a home belonging to Clemmons' aunt where witnesses had seen him earlier in the day.
Troyer confirmed that Clemmons was shot by a Lakewood police officer who fought with Clemmons after he opened fire on officers on Sunday. Troyer says Clemmons was shot dead-center in the chest as police are trained. "I'm surprised he survived it," Troyer said. "He got lucky. I’m surprised he managed to leave [Parkland] with that gunshot wound”
As far as motive, police continue to say that Clemmons was simply intent on killing police, something he told friends and family members the night before the shooting. "The only motive is he decided he was going to kill police officers," Troyer says.
Update: Governor Chris Gregoire released a statement on the end of the manhunt:
“I am thankful the suspect in this horrible crime is no longer a threat to our community. I hope this provides some closure for the families and colleagues of our fallen officers. I appreciate the tireless effort of law enforcement from across the state in the search for the suspect. Tragedies like this highlight the tremendous unity of our law enforcement community. We should now focus our attention on providing comfort and support to those who have lost a loved one.”