While details are still sketchy regarding the Sunday morning ambush at Forza Coffee Company, authorities claim that a single gunman — tentatively identified as a wanted violent ex-con named Maurice Clemmons — may be the shooter. Despite a lengthy criminal record, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee granted Clemmons clemency while he was in office.
The suspect — presumably Clemmons — walked into the shop, specifically targeted the four officers, and executed two of them at close range while they were still sitting down. Another officer was gunned down from a standing position, and the fourth struggled with the gunman and may have fired at him before collapsing and dying outside the shop. All four officers were wearing body armor and were working on their laptops doing pre-shift paperwork when they were killed. The three male officers and one female officer have not been identified, pending the notification of their next of kin. The group was identified only as a patrol squad and their sergeant. (Update: The officers have now been identified.)
The shooter fled on foot. At no point did he threaten the other customers or the two employees of the store. Dozens of police units converged upon the scene within minutes of the assault, but by then the cop-killer had escaped. Even directly after the massacre, authorities did not suspect gang activity in the shootings, “because a gang wouldn’t want to draw attention to themselves.”
Officials do not have a motive, but they have not ruled out a copycat killing in what some news outlets are already describing as a war on cops in Washington. Insanity is being hinted at by a family member. Clemmons’ sister says he claimed to have sent letters to the president, and that he expected Obama to confirm him as the living messiah.
His interest in President Obama may also suggest the possibility of a twisted political motivation for the killings. If this turns out to be the case, the shooting will be just the latest politically motivated attack on police officers in Washington state in recent memory.
Christopher John Monfort — an anti-Bush, anti-war leftist — was shot by police officers on November 10 as they converged on him as a suspect in the October 31 ambush of two Seattle police officers.
Monfort allegedly used a .223 Kel-Tec SU16 carbine in the Halloween murder of police officer Timothy Brenton and the wounding of his partner, trainee Britt Sweeney. He is also suspected of carrying out an October 22 firebombing of four police vehicles that police think may have been another attempt to kill first responders. Monfort apparently burned the police command vehicle — a converted RV — and set bombs under the police cars to target police officers and firefighters responding to the arson. The bombs hidden under the three police cars detonated just as authorities arrived, and no one was injured. After his arrest, other IEDs were found in Monfort’s home.
Monfort had attended the University of Washington, graduating in 2008 with a degree in law, societies, and justice. An African-American, Monfort had carried out a study of jury nullification and was apparently specifically interested in how it applied to black defendants charged with non-violent crimes. Jury nullification is the process of a jury declaring a defendant not guilty even if they believe the defendant committed the crime. It is often touted as a protest against unjust laws. Monfort was a disciple of Paul Butler, a George Washington University law professor who championed jury nullification as a way of combating what he saw as racial bias in the legal system. Monfort once wrote: “My goal is the subversion of American criminal justice, at least as it now exists.”