12/14/2009

Lakewood cops line up as Wash. coffee shop reopens

By Manuel Valdes
Associated Press

PARKLAND, Wash. — Hundreds of police officers and other customers lined up early Saturday for the reopening of the Washington state coffee shop where four officers were shot and killed two weeks ago.

A bagpiper played as the Forza Coffee shop opened its doors at 8:14 a.m., the time on Nov. 29 when Maurice Clemmons ambushed Lakewood Police Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.

Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar was the first customer. He hugged patrons who turned out to reclaim the shop from tragedy. Some waited up to three hours in line.

"It's just so heartwarming," Farrar said. "It really pounds home the point as to why we do this. It's a dangerous job and bad things happen sometimes, but we're out here to support the community and the community supports us."

The four officers, who made up a patrol squad, were sitting in the strip-mall coffee shop preparing for a Sunday shift when Clemmons, a felon with a long record in Arkansas and Washington, walked in the door and started shooting. Richards managed to struggle with him and got off a shot, striking Clemmons in the gut, before dying.

The gunman didn't aim at any other customers or the two young baristas.

With help from relatives and friends who hid him from police and patched his bullet wound with cotton balls, peroxide and duct tape, Clemmons was able to survive two days on the run, investigators said. He was shot and killed by a lone patrolman who encountered him on a south Seattle street at 2:45 a.m. Dec. 1.

The coffee shop had been closed since the shooting as investigators processed the grisly crime scene. On Thursday, religious leaders performed a moment of blessing there to "reclaim that space as a place for life," Forza said in a news release.

Afterward, during a private ceremony in the cafe for the officers' families, Lakewood police and Forza staff, they decided to reopen the shop, which has been repainted and redecorated.

Each of the 21 Forza branches in Washington and one in Colorado will feature plaques honoring the four officers, plus a Seattle officer shot and killed in an unrelated attack Oct. 31, the company said, and every new branch will open on its first day at 8:14 a.m.

The company's chief executive, Brad Carpenter, is a retired police officer and said he was touched by Saturday's turnout.

"The whole community is coming together and really showing us that evil and hate can stay in the darkness," he said. "We're turning on the lights and we're coming back."

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