Michael Medved

For my daughter, a student at the University of Washington, the world is askew because a murderous gunman is on the loose.  Maurice Clemmons, 37, mowed down four police officers at a coffee shop near Tacoma on Sunday morning, then headed north, bearing an abdominal bullet wound received in the attack. Police thought they had him when they surrounded a house not so very far from where I live. They were wrong; it was empty. Then today, he was spotted at the University of Washington. My daughter, who couldn't miss class, headed to her lecture despite her dad's pleas; she said police were everywhere.  Campus buildings were closed tonight, just in case; my daughter came home so she'd have a quiet place to study.

I only found out about the peril when my husband called, about 11 am, assuming I'd heard. No. And thanks for the worry, honey.

The story gained national attention because Mike Huckabee, as governor of Arkansas, 9 years ago commuted Clemmons' 60-year sentence for a series of robberies and burglaries (received while already sentenced to 48) after the felon had served 11 years. Clemmons' behavior while incarcerated certainly added to his punishment--he'd lunged for a gun, hidden a metal hinge in his clothes, and thrown a lock at a bailiff (missing, but hitting his mother, who'd come to bring him clothes). The Arkansas parole board reviewed Clemmons' case and released him anyway; he immediately went out and robbed some more, was convicted but released again in 2004, when he moved to Washington State.

Clemmons' (pictured) rampage Sunday occurred just six days after his release from Pierce County jail on charges of second degree child rape and seven other felonies. His freedom (with a tracking ankle cuff he cut off) was secured with $15,000 he put up from unknown sources, and a $150,000 bond from a bail bonds company called Jail Sucks.  Apparently, he was enraged either because of a domestic confrontation after "discovering a child" (according to a story in this morning's Seattle Times) or because he was generally mad at having been incarcerated. He apparently told acquaintances to "watch the news" because he planned to "kill cops."  He's been chased around Seattle, sometimes based on a trail of blood, abetted by others who, police say, have been lying for him.

It's all sad, scary and horrible, the loss of four brave officers, and this criminal on the loose, a wounded, armed animal whose mental state is some degree of crazy.  The "flat out execution" of the officers comes on the heels of the Halloween murder of Seattle policeman Tim Brenton, "allegedly" (according to eye-witnesses) by Christopher J. Monfort, called by police a "domestic terrorist" who had bomb-making supplies in his apartment. Monfort was shot and is in custody.

What I find especially appalling is the reluctance of Gov. Huckabee, who I admire, to express regret or take responsibility for the fact that Clemmons was in circulation. If he had not been moved by a handwritten plea that used the perpetrator-as-victim excuse, the compassionate governor might have let the repeat offender's sentence stand.  Gov. Huckabee, who explained his 1,033 pardons and commutations (one every four days of his ten years in office) on the O'Reilly Show this evening (embedded below) had evaded responsibility earlier today, blaming a "series of failures in the criminal justice system in Arkansas and Washington State."

 On the show he did admit "I am responsible" but qualified that he merely acted on the recommendations of the parole board and the judge in the case.  He emphasized that the commutation shortened Clemmons' 108-year sentence to make him eligible for parole, which was actually granted not by him, but by the parole board itself.

I find this unacceptable.  A repeat offender who had more than the three strikes, and who earned through the justice system 108 years in prison is a hard-core criminal. That a judge and parole board recommended his commutation is bad enough; the governor's office and Gov. Huckabee himself should have seen those facts and denied the request.  On O'Reilly, Gov. Huckabee said he did turn down 92% of requests for pardons, and that he studied the paperwork in each case. If that was true, then apparently the governor had enough time to consider the records of 12,912 criminals.  If he took no vacations, holidays or weekends off, Gov. Huckabee pored over the files of about four cases every single day during his tenure.

Even conservative pundits see the Clemmons commutation as a huge gaffe, an error of such Willie Horton-esque magnitude that it could easily dash Gov. Huckabee's future presidential aspirations.  If Gov. Huckabee had immediately and forcefully taken full responsibility, expressed extreme regret, and bent over backward to vow high priority to public protection from repeat criminals, he might have finessed his failure. But to my mind, even his O'Reilly "explanation" seemed defensive rather than definitive.  I think Gov. Huckabee is a good man, but he needed to address his zeal to free Arkansas offenders, and take a hard line against crime.

It's too late for him to do so now. We can only pray that Clemmons is apprehended tonight, for the safety of the citizens of Washington state...and the peace of mind of all the mothers whose children will walk to class tomorrow.

UPDATE: Murderer Clemmons Dead after Frightening Seattle and Raising Questions of Compassion

Update this morning on Maurice Clemmons, killer of four Lakewood, Washington police officers, cause of city-wide concern and unease, and source of Mike Huckabee's future political demise.

As I'd hoped in my post of last night, Clemmons was found, about 2:40 am. And, due to the criminal's own bravado and stupidity, killed, saving taxpayers the expense of trial and incarceration and probably executing him anyway.

Clemmons, who had evaded capture with the help of nefarious low-lifes, decided to steal a car.  The vehicle's owner, Harvey Lagon, watching TV in his South Seattle home about 12:45 am, heard his car revving and, looking out the window, watched it being stolen. He decided to call the police rather than pursue the thief himself. That choice might have saved his life.

Several blocks away, Officer Benjamin Kelly, on routine patrol, came upon the car with the hood up and motor running. He determined the car was stolen, and began the paperwork when Clemmons approached. Kelly recognized him and commanded him to stop. When Clemmons ignored two further commands and reached into his waist area, the officer fired.  On Clemmons' body was a firearm taken from one of the Lakewood murdered officers.

The collective sigh of relief in Seattle is audible.  The day began with this beautiful dawn (I took the photo), the opening of a sunny day in the light-starved Northwest.  Today my daughter and her friends can walk to class at the University of Washington with less trepidation.

I hope this tragic episode can motivate support for government aggressively eliminating danger and effectively punishing criminals. We need to shift the mindset so that perpetrators are seen as responsible decision-makers, rather than victims of a society that owes them help and sympathy, since it failed to provide optimal upbringing.

The economy and individual freedom depend on citizens' living in safety. Providing that is the most fundamental task of government.  I'm sure Gov. Huckabee--and we all--now regret that nine years ago he didn't keep that duty foremost in mind.

Diane's Blog: http://www.brightlightsearch.blogspot.com/

Michael Medved

Michael Medved's daily syndicated radio talk show reaches one of the largest national audiences every weekday between 3 and 6 PM, Eastern Time. Michael Medved is the author of eleven books, including the bestsellers What Really Happened to the Class of '65?, Hollywood vs. America, Right Turns, The Ten Big Lies About America and 5 Big Lies About American Business
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