Jury sides with officer in cop-killer shooting

Jury sides with officer in cop-killer shooting »Play Video
Seattle Police Officer Benjamin L. Kelly, left, is congratulated by fellow Seattle Police Officers at the King County Courthouse after hearing the jury's responses in Seattle on Wednesday, April 7, 2010.
SEATTLE - The jury in the shooting inquest of a Seattle police officer who killed the man who gunned down four Lakewood police officers has sided with the officer.

After six hours of deliberations, the six jurors ruled Officer Benjamin Kelly did believe Maurice Clemmons presented imminent danger when he shot Clemmons on Dec. 1.

The jury's job was to decide 19 questions that dealt with whether Kelly feared for his life when he used deadly force in shooting Maurice Clemmons. The inquest is standard in King County in fatal police shootings.

Jurors were instructed to answer the questions in writing with one of three responses: "yes," "no" or "unknown."

The jury returned unanimous decisions in Kelly's favor on all questions except the question of whether Kelly repeatedly told Clemmons to show his hands. All six jurors said the answer to the question was "unknown".

"It could be they just didn't have enough information to make a decision on that particular point," said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.

According to Seattlepi.com, some of the questions asked if Kelly, a five-year police veteran, was briefed about Clemmons before starting his shift the night of Nov. 30, and if he saw the stolen Acura at the scene where he found Clemmons. The gold-colored car was left running with the hood up.

Questions ask about Kelly's interaction with Clemmons, and if the officer could determine his identity.

One asks if at the time Kelly fired the gun he believed "Clemmons presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury" to the officer or others.

After the inquest completed, Kelly said, "I was just thankful to have the opportunity to present the facts in this matter and I hope this brings some closure to the families of the Lakewood officers."

In testimony on Tuesday, Associate King County Medical Examiner Dr. Aldio Fusaro said of the seven shots Kelly fired, four hit Clemmons and two could have been the fatal shots.

Fusaro also said he found in Clemmons' body a bullet that had been fired from Lakewood Officer Greg Richards' gun. That gun was the same one Clemmons used to kill Richards at the Parkland coffee shop. The weapon was found on Clemmons the night he was killed by Kelly.

Fusaro said he did not consider the shot from Richards to be a fatal wound.

"It follows the contour of the chest wall without actually entering the chest, so no major organs were damaged by it," he said.

On Monday at the start of the inquest, Kelly described how a man approached as he was checking out a stolen vehicle in south Seattle in the early morning hours of December 1.

Kelly said he stepped out of the squad car as the man approached and quickly recognized Clemmons by his size and a prominent mole on his cheek.

"He gave me an 'Oh, crap' look," Kelly said Monday. He added: "The first thing that came into my mind is 'OK, I'm kind of in trouble here, and I better do something."'

When Clemmons was about 4 feet away, Kelly pulled out his service pistol and yelled at the man to show his hands. But Clemmons turned from him and reached for his waist, so Kelly said he fired seven shots, wounding Clemmons.

Kelly was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting and returned to duty Jan. 1.

Clemmons family had the right to be represented at the inquest, but no one from the family had contacted the court until Wednesday. A private investigator who claimed to represent the Clemmons family said the family wanted to be heard at the inquest. But the rules of the inquest state that only a lawyer representing the family can make the request to be heard and the judge denied the motion.