Gunshot wound might have killed Clemmons anyway

You might have been wondering, How could Maurice Clemmons have survived so long with a gunshot wound right in the belly?

He managed to last nearly two days  – after one of the Lakewood police officers (Greg Richards) shot him during the coffee shop ambush on Sunday.  Clemmons was hit just above the belly button, said Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer.  He later died in Seattle after another officer shot him two or more times on a city street.  Clemmons was found with duct-tape and cotton gauze covering the wound.

Police handgun, similar to the one used in battle at a coffee-shop near Lakewood, Wash. (photo by Clyde Armory)

We may never know why he lasted.  The King County Medical Examiner says autopsy reports are not public documents.  The autopsy is considered “protected health information.”  In other words, it’s private, and the next of kin must consent to any public release.  The public report will only confirm the cause of death.

I asked the chief trauma surgeon at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center for some speculation.  Harborview is the hospital where nearly all gunshot victims end up in the Seattle area.

Dr. Jerry Jurkovich says most gunshot wounds to that region would be fatal without surgery, since “it would almost certainly have injured some segment of the intestine.”  But, it might take several days for the infection to get bad enough to kill.  Bleeding to death is unlikely (and would happen very quickly).

It’s possible the bullet hit Clemmons from a sideways angle and did not penetrate major organs.

Does it matter? Not really, except as it sheds light on how much the “assistance” from his friends and family kept Clemmons alive.

MORE INFO [12/16/09] — Here’s some speculation.  Okay, it’s from unnamed sources, but credible enough to share, with caveats.  A friend of mine was discussing the case with a buddy in the FBI.  They came up with this:  One reason Clemmons might have survived that initial gunshot wound was if he was shot by one of his own guns, instead of the officer’s gun.  His .38 caliber revolver packs a smaller impact than the .40 caliber Glock (pictured above).

If so, that also reveals a little about how the events might have unfolded.  After the other three officers had been shot, Ofc. Richards was struggling with Clemmons, who still could have had a revolver in each hand.  Perhaps, one went off and hit Clemmons in the belly, but Clemmons might have used the other hand to shoot Richards in the head.  In this scenario, Richards’ gun was never pulled.  Clemmons would have taken it off his body before he ran.

This entry was posted in medicine and tagged , , , by Admin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Admin

I was the Science & Health Reporter for 12 years, and the Environment Reporter for 5 years, at NPR member station KPLU, in Seattle, WA (now re-born as knkx). Today, I've left journalism but keep this blog as a place for writing about some of the topics that I tracked over the years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s