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Lakewood police memorial: killings may spur changes for offenders

The Lakewood police memorial honored the four officers who were killed in a shocking ambush on Nov. 29. Their deaths could affect how states consider commuting prison sentences.

By Michael B. FarrellStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 9, 2009

A Washington State trooper stands next to a hearse bearing one of four fallen Lakewood officers, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, at the Tacoma Dome.

Drew Perine/The News Tribune/AP

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Tacoma, Wash.

Thousands of police officers from around the country gathered Tuesday for a Lakewood police memorial in suburban Seattle, honoring four colleagues killed in a shocking ambush on Nov. 29.

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The ceremony amounted to the largest such gathering in the state of Washington's history, with more than 2,000 law enforcement vehicles – some from as far away as Boston and New York – snaking their way through Tacoma. Their destination was the memorial at the Tacoma Dome for the four from Lakewood, Wash. – Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards, and Ronald Owens.

The massive turnout for the memorial – hundreds of Washingtonians braved freezing temperatures to watch the procession – is a testament to the outrage over the killings. The deaths may eventually change how this state sets bail for repeat offenders – and they could even impact how other states consider commuting prison sentences.

Maurice Clemmons, who is accused of gunning down the officers in a Parkland, Wash., coffee shop, was a parolee from Arkansas with a violent criminal past who had been arrested numerous times in Washington. He was killed last Tuesday by a Seattle police officer after a massive statewide manhunt.

Mr. Clemmons had made bail six days before allegedly gunning down the officers. He had been arrested on assault and second-degree rape charges.

Soon after it was announced that Clemmons was the primary suspect, news emerged that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had commuted his 108-year prison sentence, given for a string of violent robberies and burglaries. Suddenly the officers' deaths took on a political dimension as Mr. Huckabee, who many expect to vie for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, was at the center of the controversy.