And now Maurice Clemmons is dead.
It’s good because the alternative almost certainly would have been at least one more dead police officer. Despite the most intensive manhunt ever seen in the Puget Sound area, Clemmons was not tracked down by detectives or cornered by a SWAT team. It is somehow fitting that he met his end in an encounter with a lone officer on routine patrol in the middle of the night, an officer who was engaged in activity almost as mundane as that which occupied the four officers who were killed Sunday morning in Lakewood, Washington.
When Seattle police officer Benjamin Kelly came upon a car parked with its hood up and engine running early Tuesday morning, he checked the license number and learned the car had been stolen hours before. As he filled out the paperwork required to recover the car, Kelly saw a man approaching from behind. Kelly got out and, recognizing Clemmons, ordered him to stop and raise his hands. Rather than comply, Clemmons began running around Kelly’s car, attempting to pull the gun he carried as he did so. Kelly fired, striking Clemmons and killing him. It is clear enough that Clemmons intended to murder Kelly, for why else would he have approached a police officer as he did? And God knows how many others he might have gone on to kill had Kelly not been alert and prepared to take him on.
Much of the commentary on this matter has focused on the failure of various public officials in both Washington and Arkansas to keep Clemmons behind bars despite his epic criminal record and manifest depravity. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, for example, will no doubt see his presidential aspirations buried right along with Clemmons himself, for despite his earnest attempts to avert a downfall, the stench from this will not be easily washed away. Fairly or not, Huckabee will now and for some time to come be known as the Guy Who Sprung the Cop Killer, a victim of the law of unintended consequences.