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Published: Sunday, 11/29/2009

4 police officers shot dead at Washington coffee shop

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PARKLAND, Wash. — One of four police officers killed in an ambush at a coffee shop Sunday fought with the gunman and may have wounded him before the officer died just outside the doorway, a sheriff's spokesman said.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told reporters that investigators were asking area medical providers to report any people wounded by gunshots.

Mr. Troyer said investigators believe two of the officers were shot dead while sitting in the shop, and a third was killed after standing up. The fourth apparently struggled with the gunman out the doorway and “gave a good fight,” getting off a few shots before he was either shot there or succumbed to earlier wounds.

“We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight ... that he fought the guy all the way out the door,” Mr. Troyer said. “We hope that he hit him.”

The gunman burst into the coffee house Sunday morning and opened fire on the officers as they sat working on their laptops, killing the three men and one woman in what Mr. Troyer described as a targeted ambush.

Mr. Troyer said officers were looking for one male suspect who fled the scene and haven't ruled out an accomplice, possibly a getaway driver.

Investigators determined that a hoax call from a person in nearby Tacoma led officers to believe the gunman was on foot and still near the coffee shop.

A number of officers spent part of the afternoon carefully searching buildings close by.

Mr. Troyer said the attack was clearly targeted at the officers, not a robbery gone bad.

Lakewood, Wash., police officer Mark Renninger, formerly of Lehigh Valley, Pa., has been identified as one of the slain policeman. Lakewood, Wash., police officer Mark Renninger, formerly of Lehigh Valley, Pa., has been identified as one of the slain policeman.
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

“This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mind-set to shoot police officers,” he said.

He said the officers — all from the Lakewood Police Department — were catching up on paperwork at the beginning of their shifts when they were attacked at 8:15 a.m.

“There were marked patrol cars outside, and they were all in uniform,” Mr. Troyer said.

With no known suspects, there was no indication of any connection with the Halloween night shooting of a Seattle police officer. The suspect in that shooting remains hospitalized.

“We won't know if it's a copycat effect or what it was until we get the case solved,” the spokesman said. “We don't even have a suspect identified right now.”

Lakewood Mayor Douglas Richardson said the names of the victims would be released as soon as extended family members were notified.

In a statement, Mayor Richardson said the officers, part of the city's 100-member police force, had been with the department since it was organized five years ago. He called the crime “our most tragic event in Lakewood's 14 years as a city.”

Mr. Troyer estimated that a couple of hundred officers from the Washington State Patrol and multiple surrounding police agencies in the area were at the crime scene, with some coming on their own time.

“We have no motive at all,” he said. “I don't think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it.”

Two employees and a few other customers were in the shop during the attack. All are being interviewed by investigators.

“Some are in shock. They are very upset,” spokesman Troyer said. “They are the ones who are going to put together for us how this happened.”

The Forza Coffee Shop, part of a popular local chain, is on a side street near McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of Seattle. The shop is in a small retail center alongside two restaurants, a cigar store and a nail salon.

Mr. Troyer said the Lakewood officers were two blocks outside their jurisdiction, and the coffee shop was a popular place for officers from surrounding jurisdictions to meet and share information.

Streets around the coffee shop were blocked off late Sunday morning, and a police helicopter hovered over a large crowd of investigators.

TV video showed police taking possession of a pickup parked in a grocery store in Parkland.

“We are looking at some people. We are looking at some cars. We are looking at some residences,” Mr. Troyer said.

He said detectivess were checking surveillance video from multiple sources, trying to identify a possible getaway car.

Last month, Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed Halloween night as he was sitting in a cruiser with trainee Britt Sweeney. Officer Sweeney was grazed in the neck.

Authorities say the man charged with that shooting also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a “one-man war” against law enforcement.

Christopher Monfort, 41, was arrested after being wounded in a firefight with police days after the Seattle shooting. He remains hospitalized in stable condition, the hospital said Sunday.

The officers killed Sunday were a patrol squad made up of three officers and their sergeant. No threats had been made against them or other officers in the region, sheriff's officials said.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said she was “shocked and horrified” by the killings.

“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,” she said in a written statement. “My heart goes out to the family, friends, and co-workers of these officers, as well as the entire law enforcement community.”



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