Inside Opinion

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Tag: Lakewood police shooting


Don’t blame McCarthy and Felnagle for lack of clairvoyance on Clemmons

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s hard to sustain outrage against a dead man. Maurice Clemmons is beyond the reach of public anger, so the anger has to go looking for someone else.

Targets of convenience: the two Pierce County Superior Court judges, John McCarthy and Thomas Felnagle, who allowed Clemmons to post bond and walk out of jail before killing four Lakewood police officers Sunday.

Anger doesn’t have a brain, though. McCarthy and Felnagle are the wrong targets. If we’re looking to pin blame, the best candidate at this point looks like the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
It is indeed true that McCarthy on July 2 set a bail of $190,000 for several felony charges against Clemmons, including second-degree child rape, third-degree assault and malicious mischief. By all accounts, though, $190,000 was a high bail, given the circumstances. Even so – and this is a crucial point – McCarthy still ordered Clemmons held without bail because Arkansas had issued a warrant to extradite him.

Leave aside the warrant for a moment. On the Washington counts, denying bail wasn’t an option. The state constitution decrees that defendants have the right to post bail for all but capital charges. Keep in mind, Clemmons was not a cop-killer on July 2. He was just one of an unending stream of defendants – many charged with serious crimes, including child rape – flowing relentlessly through the court system. Neither McCarthy nor anyone else had a crystal ball to warn them that this particular defendant would explode five months later and gun down four officers.
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Signs of grief

Stuck at a stoplight on Steilacoom Blvd and South Tacoma Way today, I couldn’t help but notice a half dozen businessmen putting up a very large sign. They secured it to trees that line the busy boulevard, and I watched as they moved the sign up a few inches and then down a few inches in an effort to make it straight. The large letters on the sign were in Korean, so initially I couldn’t make out what it said, but then a few of the men stepped back, and I saw the pictures of the four faces that have become so familiar over these recent and sad days.

After the sign was in place, and respectfully straight, the men stood talking. Their heads hung low, no doubt feeling like the rest of us, depressed by the inescapable reality that people who dedicated their lives to serving and protecting a community had been murdered. I decided to pull over and, if only for a minute, stand in solidarity with them.

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Clemmons’ run brought out the best, the worst

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Heroes, villains. Events since the murder of four Lakewood police officers Sunday have produced a fresh crop of both.

The hero of the hour is the Seattle officer who shot and killed Maurice Clemmons in the course of a seemingly routine stop in the Rainier Valley early Tuesday morning. Clemmons – whose possession of one of the Lakewood officers’ guns leaves no question of his guilt – had approached the Seattle officer from behind and may have been trying to ambush him. The officer’s quick-witted response assured that this predator will never again take an innocent life.

Another hero wasn’t alive to hear the news. Clemmons surprised the four Lakewood police with a murderous fusillade in a Parkland coffee shop, but one of them – Greg Richards – managed to reach him, struggle with him and shoot him in the abdomen. A bullet anywhere in the gut is often fatal and always debilitating. Clemmons, who was clearly still in homicidal mode Tuesday morning, might well have gone on to murder others had he not been seriously wounded by the fallen officer.

It’s surprising that Clemmons’ flight from justice was ultimately ended by a single cop on what appears to have been ordinary patrol duty. The killer was the target of what was probably the biggest and most intensive manhunt in state history.

But we now know how he succeeded in eluding so many cops and so many law enforcement agencies: He had help.
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Thanks, Arkansas, for giving us Maurice Clemmons

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In 2007, gross misjudgments in a distant state allowed a one-man crime wave – Daniel Tavares Jr. – to move to Washington and murder a young Graham couple. A series of blunders in Massachusetts had set him free to pursue his criminal career in Pierce County.

Now it looks as if history may have repeated itself with Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old fugitive charged with gunning down four Lakewood police officers on Sunday.

Like Tavares in Massachusetts, Clemmons – still at large as of this writing – was returned to the streets in Arkansas despite ample evidence that he remained a grave threat to society. In both cases, the law-and-order people made rookie errors.

In Massachusetts, prosecutors failed to provide a judge with crucial information about Tavares’ criminal background, and the judge released him without bail – not knowing he’d killed his mother, had a record of violence as long as the prison yard, and was even then facing felony charges for assaulting guards.

Clemmons’ history with the justice system is still unfolding. But one thing is clear already: Had the folks in Arkansas been paying attention, he’d still be doing hard time down there, not fleeing police up here in the aftermath of a horrifying crime.
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