Officer Benjamin Kelly: The mindset to win a split-second confrontation


Maurice Clemmons’ body was probably still warm when I started getting text messages and e-mails from my friends in the Seattle/Tacoma area early Monday morning. The manhunt was over. The mainstream media reported that a “routine stolen vehicle check” had led to the righteous shooting death of Clemmons by Seattle Police Department’s Officer Benjamin L. Kelly, a five-year veteran assigned to the South Precinct. The Seattle Times  wrote that Kelly is “fortunate to be alive.”

I beg to differ. I believe Officer Kelly is alive because he trusted his instincts, employed his training, and had the mindset to win that split-second confrontation with Clemmons instead of becoming Clemmons’ fifth law enforcement victim.

The two-day manhunt involved hundreds of cops, including numerous SWAT teams going door-to-door looking for Clemmons and those who aided him in fleeing authorities. It ended the way so many high-profile cases do, with the actions of single patrol officer doing good police work. Working the night shift, Officer Kelly observed a 1990 Acura on the street with the hood up and the engine running. Kelly ran the plate and discovered that the car had been reported stolen only about two hours earlier and just a few blocks away. As he sat in his car filling out the report, he noticed a male approaching the driver's side of the patrol car from behind. Kelly immediately exited his vehicle, recognized Clemmons and began issuing orders. When Clemmons didn’t comply and reached into his waistband, Kelly fired several shots, striking the cop-killer twice. Clemmons was pronounced dead on the scene a short while later.

Off-the-record comments from Sea/Tac-area cops leave no doubt that Maurice Clemmons intended to assassinate Officer Kelly in the same manner he gunned down the “Lakewood Four” two days earlier. It’s safe to say that the car was a trap, but Ben Kelly didn’t fall into the trap.

Instead, Ben Kelly ended this one-man war on Washington-area crime-fighters, allowing them to shift their focus to grieving for and honoring Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards, and Ronald Owens. However, the war against law enforcement isn’t over, and some of us believe that it is just getting started.

Thirty-six hours after Clemmons gunned down four officers of the Lakewood police department, local papers started reporting that the police manhunt for Clemmons was causing “unease for black males between the ages of 20 and 50.” Are you kidding me? How about the unease, the sadness, and the terror he caused for American law enforcement officers, especially those in Washington State?

Law-abiding Black males didn’t have anything to worry about, but Maurice Clemmons sure did.

And if Clemmons had been white, would the media have reported that “white males” had cause to be uneasy? As Dave Smith wrote in an earlier article, “diversity, compassion, and understanding” rule the media in the Seattle area (as in most other regions of this country right now) and we must speak out against the nonsensical political correctness that may cause us to hesitate.

What if Officer Kelly had not reacted so quickly because he was afraid of causing the man he recognized as Maurice Clemmons “unease?”

Now is the time to review our history, to remember the frequent attacks on law enforcement officers in the ’60s and ’70s — when police officers  were seen as “the establishment” and evil-doers who considered themselves revolutionaries were simply bent on terrorizing cops. These maniacs used guns, explosives, and whatever methods they could improvise. They believed that if you weakened the peacekeepers, you weakened the law-abiding citizens and you eventually weakened the status quo. On top of that, we have the phenomena of the “copy cat,” someone who sees the attention given the tragedy and desperately seeks it for themselves. Maurice Clemmons was not a lone actor, he had a great deal of help from friends and family. This was a premeditated act of terror that supersedes the media and family claims that Clemmons was mentally ill, the victim of a lousy childhood, or the product of an unfair justice system.

Now more than ever before we are targets — we are the hunted — but we need to make sure our mindset is always that of the hunter, the warrior, and the protector. Remember the basics of good police work, and if you’re not sure what that means, ask someone older, wiser and more experienced than you. Listen to those who policed thirty or forty years ago, and just like good cops did in the 1970s, read books that help you understand those who oppose us and oppose a free society—books like “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” and “Rules for Radicals.” Get yourself a back up gun, wear your body armor, keep your friends and family informed, and frequently check, maintain, and strengthen your most powerful weapon, your mind.

This is just the beginning.

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

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