All night long we’ve been hearing helicopters buzzing overhead and believe me this is not typical of Seattle. We wondered what was going on and it seemed clear that there must be something serious happening nearby.
Independently, but almost at the same time, an astonishing series of events had taken place in western Washington today, practically in my own backyard. Typical of this digital age I first learned about them in the online N.Y. Times, which revealed that four Lakewood (a town halfway between Tacoma and Olympia) police officers were gunned down in cold blood at a coffee shop this morning. One of the officers got off a shot before he died, which apparently wounded the shooter.
The article revealed that police were looking for a suspect, Maurice Clemmons, who was alleged to have raped a 9 year old girl and assaulted a police officer. Astonishingly, Clemmons had an earlier string of crimes when he lived in Arkansas where he was serving a 95-year sentence when then Gov. Mike Huckabee, offered him a clemency release. Clemmons promptly relocated to Seattle where he went from being Huckabee and Arkansas’ problem to being our own.
Oh yeah, the first thing I thought of was how this is going to sink his next presidential campaign and we ought to keep his toes to the fire on this one. Huckabee released this semi-obtuse statement:
“Should he be found responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state,” Huckabee’s office said in a statement Sunday night.
What does that mean? That Huckabee f(&#ed up or not? Well, as CNN reports there is so much potential ineptitude revolving around this case that Huckabee may just be able to weasel out of it:
…Huckabee’s office said Clemmons’ commutation was based on the recommendation of the parole board that determined that he met the conditions for early release.
Huckabee cited Clemmons’ young age — 17 at the time of his sentencing — when he announced his decision to commute the sentence, according to newspaper articles.
“He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him,” the statement said.
CNN could not immediately confirm the account. But the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper reported that soon after his release in 2001, Clemmons was arrested for aggravated robbery and theft.
He was taken back to prison for parole violation. But, said the paper, he was not served with the arrest warrants for the robbery and theft charges until he left prison three years later.
His attorney argued the charges should be dismissed because too much time had passed by then. And prosecutors dropped the charges.
You’re a better man than I Gunga Din if you can follow those last few sentences. But if Huckabee can jumble the case up half as well as this, chances are this may not impact his future presidential bid as much as it should.
Huckabee can legitimately try to spread blame as far as Washington State as well. Apparently, after his arrest for rape a judge ruled him ineligible for bond, but a second judge overruled the first and released him on $150,000 bail. That was two weeks ago. Ironically, one of the conditions was that he not use a firearm.
According to a local TV newscast, Clemmons wife said he had been “talking crazy” lately and that he believed he was Jesus and that the world was coming to an end. Little did she know what this would mean for these police officers, whose world would come to an end this morning. They leave behind a total of nine children who have lost a father or mother.
This news struck even closer to home when my wife visited a hyperlocal news site which revealed that the helicopter overflights in our neighborhood (continuing as I write this) are due to the siege of a home only 10 blocks or so from my own, where the wounded Clemmons is believed holed up. The Seattle Times reports that the home is that of his aunt. There are SWAT teams and hundreds of police officers camped out at the scene. Astonishing in this usually calm placid city, where big news is sometimes an old lady’s cat getting stuck in a tree and being rescued by the fire department.
Even more astonishing is that the scene of the siege, which is at 32nd Yesler is only three blocks from the scene of another brutal police murder which happened only four weeks ago (the incidents are not related). I feel like I’m walking through an episode of the Twilight Zone.