SEATTLE — The gunman burst in with murder on his mind early this morning. Four police officers sat in a coffee shop just outside Parkland, a Tacoma suburb 40 miles south of Seattle. They were working on their laptops, preparing to start their shifts — three men and a woman — when the shots rang out. It was an ambush. None survived.
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The officers, representing five of 100 members of the Parkland Police Department, were gunned down at around 8:15 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar identified the four slain police officers notifying their families. "All four of our slain officers had been with this department since it started five years ago,” Farrar said.
The four slain are:
- Sergeant Mark Renninger, 39. He had 13 years of law enforcement experience and leaves a wife and three children.
- Officer Ronald Owens, 37. He had 12 years of law enforcement experience and leaves a former wife and a daughter.
- Officer Tina Griswold, 40. She had 14 years of law enforcement experience. She leaves her husband and two children.
- Officer Greg Richards, 42. He had eight years of law enforcement experience and leaves his wife and three children.
Police are searching for a man named Maurice Clemmons and have tagged him as a person of interest in connection with the horrific shooting.
Clemmons, according to the Seattle Times, has a long criminal history and was pardoned in Arkansas by then-Governor Mike Huckabee nine years ago. The Times reports Clemmons’ record includes five felony convictions in Arkansas and at least eight felony charges in Washington.
Sherri Badger, Public Information Manger for Washington’s Pierce County Emergency Management department told Blast that witnesses described the shooter as black, between 5’8″ and 5’10” wearing a black coat and blue jeans with a “scruffy face.”
Parkland, a newly incorporated city only 14 years old, is left trying to make sense out of a national tragedy.
“Shock. Shock and sadness,” said Hunter George, a spokesman for Pierce County, Washington, in an interview with Blast. “The fact that someone would gun down four police officers in cold blood is almost too much to imagine”
Parkland Police Officer Ed Troyer said officers frequent the Forza Coffee Shop because of its central location in the city. The shop, The Associated Press reported, is owned by a retired cop.
One of the slain officers may have gotten a shot off, Troyer said, but none of them were prepared for what happened. “This was more of an execution,” Troyer said. “The officers were sitting there with a computer going over their paperwork, which is also a normal activity on a Sunday morning before their shift starts.”
Troyer believes the officers were targeted. Investigators do not believe the gunman came into the shop to rob it but instead to kill police officers.
The pacific northwest has seen an unusual string of these kinds of brazen shootings in the past two years. Six people were shot at a gas station last year.
On Halloween, Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed while sitting in a cruiser with a rookie cop. The trainee, Britt Sweeney was grazed in the neck. Christopher Monfort, 41, who also allegedly firebombed four police cars in October, was arrested for the shooting after he was injured in a shootout with police in early November. He’s still in an area hospital.
Authorities do not believe the shootings are connected.
Troyer said that the department has had tremendous support from other police departments. Nearby McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma even offered assistance.
The shooting does not appear to be gang related. “For a gang member it would be way out of the box,” he said, “and they don’t like the attention.”
George said authorities are doing their best to reassure this city’s 24,000 residents that they’re safe. “We’re trying to reassure everyone,” George said. “There’s a massive manhunt going on.”
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said she was “shocked and horrified” upon hearing about the shooting.
“Our police put their lives on the line every day, and tragedies like this remind us of the risks they continually take to keep our communities safe,” Gregoire said in a statement. “My heart goes out to the family, friends and co-workers of these officers, as well as the entire law enforcement community.”
In a joint statement released to Blast, Parkland Mayor Douglas Richardson and City Manager Andrew Neiditz said the shooting was the “most tragic event in Lakewood’s 14 years as a city.”
“We lost four of our finest in a shocking, heartbreaking, and senseless murder,” the officials said. “Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the families and colleagues of these innocent victims during this extraordinarily difficult time.”
The slain officers were all part of Lakewood’s original police department, which was created just five years ago. All transferred to Lakewood as commissioned law enforcement officers from other communities. The department is currently seeking accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and a team from the commission is due in the city next Saturday to review the new department for the prized accredited status.
“Once we have fully notified extended family members, we will release the identities of the slain officers,” the mayor and town manager said.
Those with information on the crime should call 866-977-2362.