Retrial of accused Lakewood Four getaway driver set to begin

Sep 19, 2022, 6:32 PM


Investigators survey the area where suspect Maurice Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer early December 1, 2009 in Seattle, Washington. Clemmons was the subject of a massive manhunt after he allegedly killed four Lakewood, Washington police officers in a suburban coffee shop November 29, 2009. Four other people are in custody for allegedly helping the suspect elude authorities. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

It was one of the most shocking crimes in Puget Sound history – four police officers sitting down in a coffee shop ahead of their Sunday morning shift in 2009 were gunned down in cold blood. The ambush-murders of the Lakewood Four, as they would come to be known, led to a massive two-day manhunt for their killer, Arkansas felon Maurice Clemmons. The manhunt ended two nights later when Clemmons was shot and killed by a lone Seattle police officer he encountered.

Clemmons had a long and violent criminal history that included multiple felony convictions in Arkansas and Washington, starting when he was 17. Several psychologists, criminal profilers, and others warned along the way that he was likely to commit more violent crimes.

He had been released on bail for separate charges just six days before he walked into the then-Forza coffee shop in Parkland. Then, without saying a word, Clemmons pulled out a 9mm Glock 17 and opened fire on the four officers – none of whom he had any history with.

Homicides in WA highest in nearly 30 years, violent crime on the rise

39-year-old Sergeant Mark Renninger and 40-year-old Officer Tina Griswold both died almost instantly after being shot in the head. 37-year-old Officer Ronald Owens died from a gunshot wound to the neck as he tried to draw his weapon and 42-year-old Officer Greg Richards died from a gunshot wound to the head, but not before returning fire and striking Clemmons in the abdomen.

Witnesses reported Clemmons fled the coffee shop dripping blood and got in the passenger side of a white truck that was running nearby. It was later determined to be driven by now-50-year-old Darcus Allen, who would be charged with aggravated first-degree murder for being the alleged getaway driver in the Lakewood Four murders.

Allen has always maintained he had no idea what Clemmons planned to do when he drove him near the coffee shop and did not know what he’d done when he drove him away from the scene. Allen said he did not realize anything was wrong until he noticed Clemmons was injured, at which point he claimed he abandoned the truck and Clemmons, saying he wanted no part in this.

However, prosecutors found no evidence of Allen ever abandoning the truck.

A jury in 2011 convicted Allen on four counts of first-degree murder, but did not find evidence to support the aggravating factors which would have led to an automatic life without parole sentence. The jury did find there was evidence to support sentencing enhancement factors such as knowing the victims were law enforcement. Allen was sentenced to 420 years in prison.

But in 2015, the State Supreme Court vacated the convictions, citing prosecutor misconduct because of language the deputy prosecutor used during closing arguments.

Prosecutors hoped to retry Allen on aggravated first-degree murder charges with sentencing enhancements, but Allen’s defense team would appeal, arguing the retrial was double jeopardy.

A series of appeals ensued. It all culminated in a final appellate decision from a three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week, rejecting the final appeal from Allen’s defense team.

That decision cleared the way for the retrial to begin. Allen was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and sentencing enhancements, but not the aggravating factors, which would mandate automatic life without parole. Since the original jury had already cleared Allen of those charges, retrying them would have been double jeopardy. However, since the original jury convicted him of first-degree murder and sentencing enhancements, those did not violate double jeopardy laws.

Pierce County prosecutors say they expected jury selection to get underway Thursday, with opening statements likely near the end of the month.

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

Local News

Associated Press

Missing Mount Rainier climber’s body found in crevasse; he was celebrating 80th birthday

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. (AP) — Search crews on Mount Rainier have found and recovered the body of a man matching the description of an 80-year-old solo climber reported missing last week, Mount Rainier National Park officials said. Dawes Eddy of Spokane, Washington, embarked on a solo climb on May 30 and was last […]

1 day ago

seattle drug possession...

Frank Sumrall

Seattle city council fails to approve new city drug possession law

The Seattle City Council has rejected an ordinance that would have allowed the city to prosecute people for misdemeanor drug possession and public drug use.

1 day ago

seattle mariners clean up...

Frank Sumrall

Seattle MLB All-Star Game ‘Clean-up’ not without controversy

With the MLB All-Star Game coming to Seattle next month, the Seattle Mariners is hosting a Community Clean-Up on June 23 at T-Mobile Park.

1 day ago

Google Doodle...

Bill Kaczaraba

Bellevue sixth-grader doodles her way to Google champion

Bellevue sixth-grader Rebecca Wu has won the Doodle for Google contest and $30k.

1 day ago

10-year-old Federal Way...

KIRO 7 News Staff

Family shares details on how 10-year-old survived being lost in the Cascades for 24-hours

The Kittitas Sheriff’s Department released new details on Tuesday on how a Federal Way 10-year-old survived being lost overnight in the Cascades near the Cle Elum River.

1 day ago

Tacoma power vault...

Heather Bosch

5 arrested for breaking into Tacoma power vault

Tacoma Police say they've arrested five people who were allegedly breaking into a Tacoma power vault on Monday.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

Retrial of accused Lakewood Four getaway driver set to begin