The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Benjamin L. Kelly of the Seattle (Wash.) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for March 2010.
"I told him, 'You caught the suspect responsible for the worst police massacre in Washington state history. You need to take a deep breath and soak that in,'" recalled Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, referring to the heroic actions of Seattle Police Officer Benjamin Kelly.
In the early morning hours of December 1, 2009, Officer Kelly ended an intense manhunt for Maurice Clemmons, the suspect wanted in the slayings of four Lakewood (Wash.) PD police officers just two days earlier.
The Washington state law enforcement community was still reeling from the ambush killing of Seattle PD's Officer Timothy Brenton, as he and the officer he was training sat in their squad car on Halloween night following a traffic stop. Less than a month later, on November 29, came the shocking news that four officers from the nearby Lakewood Police Department had been gunned down in a Pierce County coffee shop while preparing for their shift. Maurice Clemmons was identified early on as the suspect in the Lakewood killings, and a massive manhunt involving agencies from across the state was initiated. Early reports suggested that Clemmons may have fled to Seattle.
At roll calls, Seattle Police supervisors emphasized the continuing danger that Clemmons posed to officers and the community, and officers were reminded to "keep their heads on a swivel" and stay vigilant. In the South Seattle neighborhood that Officer Kelly patrols, three vehicles had been stolen the night before, which was highly unusual.
While patrolling early in the morning of December 1, Officer Kelly discovered an abandoned vehicle on the side of the road that matched the description of one of the stolen vehicles. The car's hood was up and the engine was still running, yet the car was unoccupied. Officer Kelly recalled seeing a suspicious person walking away from the scene before the officer spotted the stolen car. The person was wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head so as to hide his face.
Officer Kelly positioned his patrol car behind the vehicle and began the process of recovering the stolen car, remaining vigilant and constantly monitoring his surroundings. Suddenly, Officer Kelly caught sight of the hooded man stealthily approaching the left side of his police cruiser from behind.
Officer Kelly immediately exited his cruiser and ordered the man to stop and show his hands. The hooded man looked up, and Officer Kelly instantly recognized him as Maurice Clemmons. Officer Kelly drew his service weapon and continued ordering the suspect to show his hands. Instead, Clemmons attempted to retrieve a handgun from his clothing. Fearing for his safety, Officer Kelly fired, striking Clemmons multiple times, before he attempted to flee the scene.
Maintaining his composure, Officer Kelly calmly radioed his location and situation in order to assist responding officers. He holstered his handgun, grabbed a shotgun from his cruiser, took cover, and waited for backup to arrive. Once additional officers were on the scene, Officer Kelly briefed them on what had occurred and set up an approach team to move toward the suspect, who had collapsed. Officers quickly disarmed Clemmons of two handguns and placed him under arrest. Clemmons died at the scene, and the manhunt for a brutal cop killer was over.
The subsequent investigation revealed that the handgun Clemmons was trying to get out of his pocket belonged to one of the Lakewood police officers he had killed. Clemmons had stolen the weapon after committing the murders. "Had it not been for Officer Kelly's quick reaction, Clemmons could have been successful in murdering another police officer," wrote Seattle Police Captain David Emerick, who nominated Officer Kelly for the NLEOMF Officer of the Month Award.
Added Seattle Police Sergeant Bruce Creamer, who nominated Officer Kelly for the Seattle Police Department's Officer of the Month Award, "The actions of Officer Kelly clearly saved his life and ensured that Clemmons' murderous rampage was brought to an ignominious end. Officer Kelly displayed bravery and professionalism throughout this incident which sets a standard to emulate and reflects great credit on himself, the Seattle Police Department, and the law enforcement profession itself."
Officer Kelly is a five-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department and serves on the Advanced Training Unit Tactics Cadre. He received his department's Officer of the Month Award in January 2010 and April 2006.
Located in the nation's capital, the NLEOMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state, and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer Kelly, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2010, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2011 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund's 2012 calendar.