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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Seattle, Washington 11/30/2009

On routine patrol Seattle officer Benjamin Kelly found himself face to face with the most wanted man in the Northwest.

August 19, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: Seattle PD.
Photo: Seattle PD.

Instead of just crossing the street and giving Kelly a wide berth, the man started walking directly toward Kelly's patrol car down the middle of the street. What's more, he was approaching the driver's side of Kelly's patrol vehicle. There was nothing particularly quick about the man's movements, but his determined gait communicated enough to Kelly for the officer to recognize that the man was walking up to contact him.

Kelly considered all of the possible scenarios: This could be a guy whose dog got out of his yard, or he could possibly be the guy who stole this car. A gamut of possibilities was entertained, but that the man might be Maurice Clemmons was not one of them.

Kelly got out of the car and turned to face the man who by now was at the rear bumper of his vehicle walking directly toward him, head still down, his sweatshirt still pulled up so as to obscure his face.

Just as Kelly started to lift his left hand in preparation of handchecking the man should he walk into his personal space, the stranger glanced upward, exposing his face for the first time.

That's when Kelly saw the mole.

Instantaneously, the officer's mind took corresponding note of the man's height and weight and other physical descriptors. And in that split second, he recognized not only that the man was Maurice Clemmons, but that Clemmons knew that he'd been made.

Breaking Leather

Whatever game plan Clemmons initially had in his murderous head visibly evaporated as communicated by the "oh, crap" expression that crossed his face.

Kelly started to go for his gun even as he yelled commands for Clemmons to keep his hands where he could see them. Instead, Clemmons' hands went for his midsection even as he began to rotate his pelvis and step to his left away from Kelly.

Breaking leather, Kelly brought his .40 caliber Glock 22 up on target as Clemmons was making his own move.

Clemmons moved around him. Kelly's Glock tracked the man's movements like a tank turret, his finger finding its trigger and squeezing off an initial volley of three rounds.

Clemmons broke into a sprint, darting between the front of the patrol unit and the abandoned Acura where Kelly stood.

Kelly thought that he'd somehow missed.

Clemmons ran to the north side of the street toward the front of a house whose front yard was bordered by an eight-foot-tall hedge whose only break was where the sidewalk led up to the front door.

Kelly knew that if Clemmons made it to the front yard and behind the hedge that he'd lose sight of the suspect. Determined to get as many rounds down range as possible before the man disappeared from his sight, he squeezed off a second volley that ended as Clemmons made it to the sidewalk and through the hedge to the front yard of the house and disappeared from sight.

Kelly had no idea where Clemmons was. From the time he'd stepped out of his vehicle to the time Clemmons had disappeared around the hedge perhaps five seconds had lapsed. Concerned that his rounds had missed a man that could now reposition to reengage him, Kelly remained standing inside his open car door for cover as he attempted to broadcast what was going on over the radio. But twice his portable failed to transmit and he leaned into his patrol vehicle in a bid to transmit via the patrol vehicle's radio.

But when he grabbed the radio mic he got bonked again. Saddled with three failed radio transmissions, Kelly knew he was on his own. Determined to ramp up his stopping power, he popped out the shotgun from its mounting and threw it over the top of his patrol vehicle in preparation of Clemmons reengaging him.

Help On the Way

With the shotgun leveled toward the hedge, Kelly decided to try one more time to transmit with his portable. It worked. Relaying the essentials and reading off the address of the house he was facing, Kelly advised dispatch that Clemmons had last been seen running northbound through the yard of the property. He could hear the radio chatter and sirens sounding off in the distance and knew a lot of people were coming his way very quickly.

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