Eight hours before Maurice Clemmons opened fire in a Washington state coffee shop, killing four police officers, two sheriff’s deputies crossed paths with him while on routine patrol, says the Seattle Times. One deputy even ran a check for outstanding warrants — and came up empty. That check took place at 12:38 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2009, the same day that Clemmons committed one of the worst crimes in the history of the Pacific Northwest.
It is another example of how close authorities came to stopping Clemmons before he acted on a pledge to kill as many police officers as he could. After being released from jail six days before the shootings, Clemmons took a number of steps that could have resulted in a warrant being issued for his arrest or in bail-bond employees trying to hunt him down. Each time, the opportunity was missed. A police report about the deputies’ spotting Clemmons the same day of the shootings was made available by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department as part of a large release of public records. News organizaations sued for access to the 2,000-plus pages of documents and prevailed in the state Supreme Court. The records’ release was fought by relatives and associates of Clemmons who had been charged with aiding him before or after the shootings.