Manhunt for US cop killer
Seattle - Police sought a convicted felon for questioning on Monday after four police officers were shot and killed execution-style at a neighbourhood coffee shop in Washington state.
Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Ed Troyer said the victims were sitting at a table in the Forza cafe before their shift on Sunday when a lone gunman entered and started shooting at around 08:15.
"We have somebody out there who blatantly went in and opened fire on four police officers, killing all four of them," said Troyer following the shooting near McChord Air Force base in Tacoma, south of Seattle.
Sergeant Mark Renninger, 39, Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42, were slain. They were all married with children, police said, and wearing uniforms and bulletproof vests when they were shot.
Traynor said the officers, from nearby Lakewood Police Department, had been specifically targeted, with no-one else shot at in the corner coffee shop.
"This was more of an execution - walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers," he said.
The gunman was described as a "black male in his 20s or 30s" Troyer told reporters. "He walked in with a handgun, opened fire multiple times and fled the scene."
Pierce County Sheriff's Office said later on Sunday they were seeking Maurice Clemmons, 37, as a "person of interest in the case", as police set up road blocks and Swat teams searched a storage-unit warehouse.
Long criminal history
Clemmons reportedly has a long criminal history including five felony convictions in Arkansas and several felony charges in Washington.
He had been in jail in Pierce County for several months until recently, pending a charge of second-degree rape of a child.
According to the Seattle Times, Clemmons served only part of a 35-year prison sentence in Arkansas before it was commuted in 2000 by then governor Mike Huckabee, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
Troyer earlier told King 5 local television that one of the mortally wounded officers may have traded fire with the gunman.
"There is evidence that a Lakewood Police officer fired off some shots and we hope that he hit him," Troyer said. "If he's hit, that means that he's injured somewhere with a gunshot wound."
Troyer said local hospitals had been alerted in case the suspect sought medical attention.
Police set up tip-lines and offered a $10 000 reward for anyone with information about those responsible for the shooting.
Around 200 officers from different law enforcement agencies were involved in the hunt for the shooting suspect late on Sunday, police said.
"We have no motive at all," Troyer told King 5. "I don't think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it."
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire voiced his shock at the shootings, which local media said was the worst single loss of life involving law enforcement officers in state history.
"I am shocked and horrified at the murder of four police officers this morning in Pierce County," Gregoire said.
"Our police put their lives on the line every day, and tragedies like this remind us of the risks they continually take to keep our communities safe."