State agrees to pay $5 million each to families of two slain Lakewood officers
The settlements stem from the killing of four Lakewood officers by Maurice Clemmons in 2009, bringing the total amount paid by the state to $12.5 million.
Seattle Times staff reporters
The families of two Lakewood police officers who were killed by Maurice Clemmons in November 2009 each will receive $5 million under settlements with the state Department of Corrections.
The money will go to relatives of Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officer Gregory Richards, said Jack Connelly, whose firm, Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma, represented the families in their claims alleging the Department of Corrections (DOC) mishandled the Clemmons case.
On Nov. 29, 2009, Clemmons fatally shot Renninger and Richards, as well as officers Ronald Owens and Tina Griswold as they sat in a coffee shop in Parkland. In an exchange of gunfire, Clemmons was wounded by Richards.
Clemmons was killed two days later by a Seattle police officer.
Griswold's relatives previously reached settlements totaling $2.5 million.
Attorney Lincoln Beauregard, who works at Connelly's firm, said he and Connelly appeared before Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson on Friday, and the judge finalized the settlements with the families of Renninger and Richards.
"There's been a long dialogue with the Department of Corrections. A settlement of ... this size and this nature doesn't happen without the court giving its OK. There's been a resolution of these claims," Beauregard said.
The families, who said they wanted to shed light on breakdowns and spark reforms, said DOC's missteps included wrongly ignoring an Arkansas arrest warrant issued in October 2009, a few weeks before the shootings. Clemmons had served time in prison in Arkansas before moving to Washington.
"DOC was supposed to tell the Pierce County Jail they were supposed to hold Clemmons. They neglected to do it," Beauregard said.
In a written statement Friday, the DOC said, "The brutal act of violence by Maurice Clemmons took the lives of four dedicated officers and caused unimaginable grief to their families. We hope these settlements help the victims' families, particularly the children, overcome their loss."
Clemmons, after suffering an apparent psychotic break, was arrested and jailed in the summer of 2009 on charges of assaulting police officers and child rape. As required by the Interstate Compact on Adult Offender Supervision, which covers the state-to-state transfer of probation cases, Arkansas sent DOC a pair of warrants to hold Clemmons in jail pending trial. Arkansas withdrew the first warrant, but issued a second in October 2009.
Although Clemmons' community corrections officer noted the warrant — copying it verbatim into DOC's internal computer system — he did not alert the Pierce County Jail or prosecutors after Clemmons' arrest in the summer of 2009.
Clemmons posted bail and was released on Nov. 23, 2009, six days before the officers were killed.
The claims also alleged, among other things, that DOC failed to properly monitor and supervise Clemmons and didn't act when he violated conditions of his supervision.
A previous settlement of $1 million was reached by the Connelly firm on behalf of Griswold's 11-year-old son. Her estate and her daughter, represented by Olympia attorney Michael Hanbey, have resolved claims for $1.5 million.
Owens' daughter has not been involved in the resolutions, according to the Connelly firm.
The DOC, in its statement, said it and other institutions have taken action to improve public safety, including persuading the national organization that oversees the interstate compact to change its rules to provide states with more authority to return offenders if they pose a significant risk.
Also established was the first statewide network that automatically notifies community members when offenders are released from county jails, the statement said.
In addition, voters in 2010 approved an amendment to the state constitution that allows judges to deny bail to offenders who pose a significant risk, the statement said.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or email@example.com