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Originally published December 1, 2009 at 10:09 PM | Page modified December 2, 2009 at 2:00 AM

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Routine stolen-car check led to Lakewood police-slaying suspect

On a quiet Seattle street early Tuesday morning, a police officer filling out paperwork on a stolen car he had come upon encountered Maurice Clemmons, who was wanted in the slaying of four Lakewood police officers. When Clemmons refused to follow the officer's commands, the officer shot him dead.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Coverage from the days following the Lakewood shootings

Tuesday memorial to four officers comes together swiftly

Lakewood Officer Tina Griswold was a 'ball of fire' in a tiny package

A path to murder: The story of Maurice Clemmons

Gallery | Maurice Clemmons: Path to Murder

Officer Gregory Richards was 'the golden boy'

Officer Richards' wife knew he would do his duty, no matter what

Lakewood Police Officer Ronald Owens was always smiling

Prosecutors want Clemmons' sister held in custody

Clemmons' sister taken into custody in courtroom

Clemmons repeatedly slipped through the cracks

Bank accounts may be sign Clemmons planned getaway

Lakewood Police Sgt. Mark Renninger was devoted to family, dedicated to police work

Bail-bond agents gamble on unknown

Clemmons' sister arrested during court hearing

Repeat offenders would be denied bail under measure

Nicole Brodeur | Help is coming for aunt

Clemmons traveled to meet New York minister, citing God's instructions

Clemmons' half-brother charged with helping killer elude police

Clemmons investigated by drug enforcement authorities after he moved here in 2004

More than 20,000 people expected at Tuesday's memorial for officers

Arkansas governor and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire confer on parolees, Clemmons

Coffee shop where officers killed remains closed

Details on Tuesday memorial for four slain officers

Trusted aunt chose to do the 'right thing'

Clemmons' driver denies knowledge of plot to kill

Over 2,000 attend Lakewood vigil for 4 slain officers

Graham neighborhood embraces grieving family

Alleged accomplice used an alias

Coffee shop where officers killed remains closed

Who leaked photo of Clemmons' body? Investigations launched

Clemmons couldn't be held after 'safety net' dissolved

Calendar of memorials and vigils for slain Lakewood officers

Loyal friends, family helped Clemmons flee police

Gregoire: no more Arkansas parolees

Alleged getaway driver in officers' slaying could face murder charges

Uncle: 'He was all about money ... suddenly, he was all about God'

Routine stolen-car check led to Lakewood police-slaying suspect

Danny Westneat | Fixing blame won't fix this mess

Jerry Large | Answers more than skin deep

Public brings flowers, candles, prayers for fallen officers

E-mails show Washington state battled to keep Clemmons in custody

States at odds over warrant that might have kept Clemmons in jail

2 men charged, several others suspected of aiding alleged cop killer

Lakewood police shooting suspect shot dead by police in South Seattle early this morning

Memorial for slain officers to be next Tuesday at Tacoma Dome

Outpouring of support for families of slain officers grows

Four days in May set stage for Sunday's tragedy

Clemmons' diagnosis: stress

Persuasive appeal helped Clemmons win clemency

Political death blow for Huckabee?

How you can help

Law-enforcement officials believe Clemmons has been sheltered by family, friends

Attack on Lakewood police likely worst in state history

Slain Lakewood officers leave holes in community fabric

Furious hunt for suspect in Lakewood police slayings creates unease for black men

Grief, gratitude for slain officers

'Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom': Neighbors describe shooting of suspect

Nicole Brodeur: Breathless in Leschi — and it's not the view

RAW VIDEO: Scene where Clemmons shot by police

AUDIO | Suspect killed in Seattle

Interactive map and timeline

See the latest tweets on #WAshooting, #lakeshoot and #WAshoot

Gallery | Maurice Clemmons Killed, Community Mourns Slain Officers

Gallery | Ceda Clemmons' Damaged Home

Monday coverage

Suspect released in Arkansas after claiming he had changed

Gallery | Police search for suspected cop killer

Gallery | Lakewood police officers killed

Video | Community reflects on slain police

Video | Police shooting: Man who helped baristas

Video | SPD Det. Jeff Kappel speaks about 11-hour standoff

Brenton family statement on slain Lakewood officers

Latest on Lakewood shooting: Police searching near Dr. José Rizal Park

Police still searching for suspected cop killer

Sunday coverage

Police union sets up fund for slain officers

Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee has controversial record of freeing criminals

Lakewood Police Department created just 5 years ago

Police again see themselves as targets

Slain officers respected for careers, family life

Lakewood police slayings appear to be worst of their kind in state history

Shocked, grieving community holds vigil for officers

Coffee house owner: Shootings 'hit close to home'

Maurice Clemmons clemency and parole documents (PDF)

Statement from Mayor Douglas Richardson and City Manager Andrew Neiditz (PDF)

City of Lakewood identifies officers (PDF)

Related links

Law justifying use of deadly force

Facebook page honoring fallen officers

NewsTribune.com | Eyewitness accounts

Video | Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer discusses Lakewood slaying

What began as a routine check of a stolen car early Tuesday morning became, in a matter of minutes, a momentous piece of police work.

When it was over, Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old suspect in the slaying of four Lakewood police officers, was dead, shot by a Seattle police officer who had been doing paperwork on the stolen car when he suddenly encountered Clemmons.

The officer, identified by a law-enforcement source as Benjamin L. Kelly, a South Precinct patrolman who joined the department less than five years ago, emerged uninjured — and fortunate to be alive, according to police officials.

Clemmons, an ex-convict facing a potential prison term on child-rape and assault charges, was armed with a handgun taken from one of the Lakewood officers, police said.

The confrontation between Clemmons and Kelly, which occurred about 2:45 a.m. in the 4400 block of South Kenyon Street in South Seattle, broke the quiet of a residential neighborhood and ended a two-day manhunt for Clemmons.

During that time, SWAT teams had gone from house to house looking for Clemmons, but in the end, it came down to the actions of a single officer.

Police officials said Clemmons was shot at least twice after the officer recognized him and Clemmons refused commands to stop.

Clemmons also had an older wound to his abdomen, believed to be the result of a gunshot fired by one of the Lakewood officers who were killed Sunday.

Ed Troyer, spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, the agency investigating the slayings of the Lakewood officers, said he was surprised Clemmons survived that wound.

Seattle police, in a written statement that didn't identify Kelly by name, said the officer joined the department just over 4 ½ years ago. The statement said the officer has prior law-enforcement experience and is a military veteran.

Kelly grew up in New Jersey, said Rachel Laffend of New Jersey, whose brother is married to Kelly's sister.

Contacted by telephone, she immediately knew the reason, saying, "I know. I know. We've been watching."

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Laffend said Kelly had asked family members not to talk to the news media "because he is sort of a private guy and he doesn't want to say anything."

But Laffend said Kelly is a "really awesome person and a nice guy."

Kelly has said he wants the focus to remain on the slain Lakewood officers, a source said.

A confrontation

Kelly was on patrol when he saw a silver 1990 Acura Integra with its hood up, the engine running and nobody inside.

Seattle Assistant Chief Jim Pugel, without identifying Kelly, said the officer ran the license plate and determined the car was stolen.

It had been reported stolen from the 4800 block of South Chicago Street, only a few blocks away, about two hours earlier.

As the officer sat in his patrol car writing a report on the stolen car, he noticed a man approaching the driver's side of the patrol car from behind, the department said.

The officer got out of his car and immediately recognized Clemmons, police said.

"He ordered the person to stop. He ordered the person to show his hands. That person would not show his hands, and also began to run away counterclockwise around the vehicle," Pugel said.

The officer again told Clemmons to stop, and he didn't comply, Pugel said.

As the officer drew his gun, Clemmons "reached into his waist area and moved," the department said in a written statement.

The officer then fired several shots at Clemmons, striking him at least twice, the statement said.

Clemmons collapsed near some bushes on the north side of the street, the statement said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The man was identified as Clemmons based on his description and other information, Pugel said.

A handgun was found in a front pocket of a sweat shirt Clemmons was wearing, police said. A check of the serial number showed the gun belonged to one of the Lakewood police officers, Pugel said.

Troyer, the Pierce County sheriff's spokesman, did not identify whose gun was taken.

Clemmons, who allegedly was helped by relatives and friends while eluding police, apparently had no tie to residents on the block where he was killed, Pugel said.

A balky vehicle

Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar arrived at the scene a few hours after Tuesday's shooting, to express relief and appreciation.

"I just want to thank all my brothers and sisters in law enforcement," he said. "I just can't say enough about what they've done in the last few days.

"What went through my mind mostly was ... we can close the page on this and we can get our people together and start the healing process," Farrar said.

Harvey Lagon reported the car theft about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday from his residence about five blocks from the shooting scene. Lagon was watching television when he heard a car start up and heard someone revving the engine.

"I looked out the window and it was my car," he said.

"I'm the one who called the cops," he said. "I was going to go after him. It's a good thing I didn't."

The Integra is owned by his father, Rodolfo Lagon.

In the end, the car's problems — Harvey Lagon noted that it sometimes dies — helped police.

"It's not a very reliable car," he said. "We only use it for short trips."

Seattle Times reporters Jennifer Sullivan, Mark Rahner, Sara Jean Green, Mike Carter and Mike Lindblom and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this story.

Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or smiletich@seattletimes.com

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