Retrial underway for alleged Lakewood 4 getaway driver
The ambush-style murders of four Lakewood Police officers meeting for coffee in Parkland back in 2009 rocked Pierce County and the rest of the state. The gunman, Maurice Clemmons, walked into the coffee shop early that November morning and opened fire on the unsuspecting officers without saying a word. After a massive manhunt, Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle cop two days later.
But the damage was already done.
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.
Clemmons’ death made accused getaway driver Darcus Allen the main target for justice over such a shocking attack on law enforcement. By 2011, he’d been tried and convicted on first-degree murder charges.
But that jury did not find evidence to support the aggravating factors, which would have led to an automatic life-without-parole sentence. The jury did, however, find evidence to support sentencing enhancement.
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 appealed, 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 month, 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.
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.
However, prosecutors found no evidence of Allen ever abandoning the truck.
Opening statements in Allen’s retrial got underway Monday, with prosecutors coming out of the gate with their firm belief that Allen knew full well what his longtime friend had planned.
“Maurice Clemmons did not act alone,” the prosecutor told the jury. “He had an accomplice and that accomplice was Darcus Allen.”
Allen’s attorney passionately rejected that narrative in his opening statement, telling the jury Allen was across the street at a car wash when Clemmons killed the officers and had no idea what his plans were or what he had done when he drove him away from the scene.
“This man has done nothing,” Allen’s defense attorney told the jury. “He knew nothing.”
Testimony was expected to begin on Tuesday.