Loyal friends, family helped Clemmons flee police
Even as Maurice Clemmons announced he had gunned down police officers in a Pierce County coffeehouse Sunday, a network of friends and family stood by him, helping him hide from a massive manhunt that had hundreds of officers scouring two counties, according to charging documents.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Coverage from the days following the Lakewood shootings
He spent time in prison for robbery, burglary and firearms possession. He claimed to be the Messiah, threatened violence and, as his family cried, demanded they all strip. He was facing charges of rape.
And yet even as Maurice Clemmons announced he had gunned down police officers in a Pierce County coffeehouse Sunday, a network of friends and family stood by him, helping him hide from a massive manhunt that had hundreds of officers scouring two counties, according to charging documents.
Tuesday, two men were charged with rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping Clemmons evade capture during the nearly two days he was on the run.
Another person, who was arrested, allegedly drove the getaway car from the shootings; yet another bandaged the gunshot wound Clemmons sustained when one of the officers in the coffeehouse returned fire, the charges allege.
Three others have been arrested, one man and two women, and authorities say they're likely to file additional charges against those who aided Clemmons in his flight from the worst single act of violence against police in Washington state history.
Clemmons himself didn't live to face charges after he was fatally shot by a Seattle police officer early Tuesday.
To some who knew Clemmons, 37, offering assistance seemed to be almost automatic — a way of protecting a man who, despite a troubled, violent past, had given them help.
"The man was charismatic," said Tim Bean, a Lakewood counselor whom Clemmons consulted last spring. "He had a whole community of family and friends. They loved him."
To outsiders, it makes no sense.
It may have been just a part of a "thug mentality and thug culture," said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer. "To us, it's not going to make sense."
Troyer said some 50 detectives are working furiously to figure out who, exactly, helped Clemmons evade capture, and to untangle the relationships among them.
Clemmons was 17 when he was convicted of punching a woman and stealing her purse, burglarizing the home of a state trooper and carrying a gun at his high school in Little Rock, Ark.
A judge sentenced him to more than 100 years for the crimes, a term Clemmons and his family believed was excessive and would never have been given to a white suspect found guilty of the same crimes, said Bean, whom Clemmons called his "psychological and spiritual adviser."
"His family was well aware of the injustice that had been done to him," Bean said. "It doesn't make the family and friends any friendlier to the system."
His sentence was commuted, and he came to Washington in 2004 with a wife, Nicole Smith.
The Washington Department of Corrections agreed to supervise him, and he did well enough that he was required only to check in once a year.
He started a business and developed a network of friends and family.
"He'd repair their cars, give them cars and help them," Bean said of Clemmons. "He was such a giving, loving man that it was too much sometimes. They'd call him first because he'd always help them out."
But last spring, he began acting bizarrely, family members told police.
In May, he allegedly started throwing rocks at cars and through the windows of his Tacoma home, then assaulted a Pierce County sheriff's deputy who came to stop him.
Out on bail the next day, Clemmons awoke family members in the middle of the night and demanded they all strip, yelling, calling himself the Messiah, and saying "trust me," according to charging documents. A 12-year-old relative told investigators and Smith, Clemmons' wife, that he had sexually assaulted her.
That day, Smith told investigators she was scared.
Yet when Clemmons was charged, she refused to cooperate, saying it was all "a lie," charging documents state.
Over the summer and fall, Clemmons spent some time in jail for violating the terms of his Arkansas parole — in part because of the back-to-back incidents in May.
On Nov. 23, he got out on bail.
Five days later, according to charging papers, he showed guns to three men in Auburn: Rickey Hinton, 47; Douglas Davis, 22; and Eddie Davis, 20, a co-defendant in the earlier rock-throwing altercation.
Clemmons asked Hinton, described as his half-brother, for keys to his white pickup, and told the men they should keep their eyes on the TV because he planned to kill police, according to charging documents and Troyer.
The next morning — Sunday — four Lakewood police officers were killed in a coffee shop in Parkland. Witnesses said they saw the gunman hop in a white pickup that sped off. Another man was at the wheel.
Details in charging documents get a little murky after that. Several unnamed people are alleged to have offered rides and other assistance to Clemmons over the next 40 hours or so.
But the documents are clear on one point: When Clemmons returned to the home Hinton and Davis share after Sunday's shootings, they allegedly didn't hesitate to help him — even after Clemmons told the men he had been shot by police, charging papers allege. Hinton told the Davises, who are brothers, to get Clemmons out of the area, and gave them the keys to a white Pontiac, according to the documents.
Clemmons allegedly told the Davises he had killed police. They kept driving.
They made their way to the Algona/Pacific-area home of one of Clemmons' relatives, according to the charges. There, an unnamed female relative and the Davises helped Clemmons treat his gunshot wound, the charges allege.
Afterward, the relative drove Clemmons to the Auburn SuperMall and then to an apartment complex, where Clemmons got in a car driven by another unnamed woman, according to the charges.
At some point, the papers say, a female friend took Clemmons to her house in Seattle and he admitted he had shot police. She "bought medical supplies, helped treat a gunshot wound to his torso; he changed his clothes, washed and dried a load of [HIS] laundry," according to charging documents. She later dropped him off in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood.
By then, Clemmons was one of the most wanted fugitives in state history.
At least one relative wanted no part in the getaway. Clemmons allegedly phoned an aunt in Leschi, saying he had been shot and needed a place to hide. She thought better of it, drove to the police station before his arrival and filed a report.
The Davis brothers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the charges of rendering criminal assistance. Bail for Eddie Davis is $700,000; Douglas Davis' bail is $500,000.
The court hearing was attended by relatives of Gregory Richards, one of the four slain officers, including his widow and one of his daughters. Many struggled in vain to hold back their tears.
Afterward, Richards' sister-in-law, Melanie Burwell, said of the defendants, "They're not human to me."
Hinton was ordered to jail on a 72-hour hold while prosecutors prepare to file charges against him. His bail was set at $2 million, and Troyer said authorities believe he may have played "a larger role" in the crime.
Arrested Tuesday but not yet charged was a man The Associated Press identified as a convicted murderer who served prison time with Clemmons in Arkansas. He is being held for investigation of four counts of rendering criminal assistance.
Troyer said police have yet another man in custody who is believed to have driven the getaway car after the slayings. If police determine this man knew what was going to happen, he could be charged with murder, Troyer said.
Two women were also arrested Tuesday, both for investigation of multiple accounts of rendering criminal assistance. One, in her 50s, was taken into custody in Pacific. The other was arrested in Des Moines.
"We want to hold everybody involved accountable," Troyer said.
Seattle Times staff reporters Mike Carter and Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.
Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org