Inside Opinion

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Tag: police shooting


No sure remedy to anti-cop violence

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and lawmakers have no choice. With six police officers gunned down in three separate attacks since the end of October – a horror unprecedented in this state – Washington’s political leaders must do something to prevent a replay.

Gregoire and others have outlined several proposals, some of which sound promising.

One is a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bail to defendants facing a possible life sentence under Washington’s three strikes law. This conceivably could have kept Maurice Clemmons – the murderer of four Lakewood officers – behind bars. Though charged with felonies that might have sent him away for life under three strikes, he made a stiff $190,000 bail with seemingly little difficulty.

Great care must be taken in drafting this amendment. Bail is a constitutional right – part of the presumption of innocence. A system that summarily tossed defendants into jail until trial, or imposed impossibly high bails, would be operating under a presumption of guilt. If eventually found innocent, a defendant would already have served an unjust sentence.

Constitutionally permissible exceptions would be those cases in which a defendant likely to be found guilty has absolutely nothing to lose by absconding. That might include any prosecution that potentially involves a life sentence. An amendment would make sense, so long as it still permitted a judge to make factual judgments about individual cases, including the strength of the prosecution’s evidence. Presumption of innocence is too precious to throw away, even in the angry aftermath of these outrageous crimes.
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Let Deputy Mundell be the last

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

When the Lakewood’s four fallen police officers were memorialized on Dec. 8, few imagined there’d be a similar observance at the Tacoma Dome a scant four weeks later.

Today’s service for Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Mundell is all the more poignant for honoring the sixth Puget Sound officer shot to death in the line of duty in less than two months. This shocking onslaught against law enforcement officers began Oct. 31 with the killing of Timothy Brenton of the Seattle Police Department and ended with Mundell’s shooting at a house near Tanwax Lake four days before Christmas.

Paradoxically, the number of police killed while on duty has been falling across the country. The 125 deaths recorded this year is the lowest toll in a half-century. But the six this region has seen since October account for a full 5 percent of that continent-wide 2009 death toll – an explosion of anti-police violence vastly out of proportion to the area’s, or even the state’s, population. We devoutly hope we’ve seen the end of such crimes.

Each of these deaths exacts a terrible price. Mundell the man was unique and irreplaceable. Consider some of the phrases his family, friends and fellow officers have used to describe him: “The guy was not just a friend, he was an experience” . . . “bigger than life” . . . “ever-sparkling smile” . . . “loved people” . . . “high-strung and hard-driven” . . . “funny as all hell.”
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Once again, officers down

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Angry man, violent history, gun. Once more that combination has produced a shocking attack on South Sound police officers who were just doing their job.

As of this writing, Kent Mundell – one of the two Pierce County deputies shot near Eatonville on Monday night – was in critical condition and clinging to life at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The other, Sgt. Nick Hausner, was seriously wounded but expected to survive. Both are married with children.

The man who reportedly ambushed them, 35-year-old David E. Crable, may have gotten 10 shots off at very close range before being killed himself. Under the circumstances, it seems a miracle that both officers were still breathing – however badly wounded – when rescuers reached the scene. Stopping Crable while under a hail of bullets was a considerable achievement.

There is no good time for police officers to be shot, but the timing of this attack couldn’t have been more traumatic. It’s only been a few weeks since four Lakewood officers were surprised by a gunman and killed at a Parkland café. That wound hasn’t begun to heal. Now the horror of that atrocity has been revived and amplified by yet another vicious, senseless, homicidal attack on officers who were trying to protect the public.

In this case, Mundell and Hausner were shot on a domestic violence call, reportedly in the very act of protecting Crable’s brother and daughter from him. Like the professionals they are, they were working to defuse the situation; shortly before being shot, they had reportedly offered to end the dispute by driving Crable home. For their trouble, they got a pistol emptied at them.
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