Crime

Three police officers shot, one fatally, in Clinton, Mo.; suspect dies

A Clinton, Mo., police officer who was an Afghanistan war veteran was killed and two others were shot Tuesday night while responding to a 911 call.

Officer Christopher Ryan Morton, 30, was identified as the officer shot and killed, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. Morton was a twice-deployed veteran who joined the Army National Guard in 2005.

A suspect in the shooting also died. The highway patrol identified him Wednesday as James E. Waters, 37, from Clinton.

The incident occurred seven months after Clinton officer Gary Michael was shot to death during a traffic stop.

As Morton lay dying inside the home, officers continued to exchange fire with the gunman for more than an hour, perhaps three, according to neighbors.

From outside the house, the officers yelled to Morton, "Hang on buddy, we're here, we're here," said neighbor Sheryl Long.

Officer Christopher Ryan Morton
Clinton Police Officer Christopher Ryan Morton File photo

“They are not responding,” the dispatcher answered back. “I can’t tell. And they just disconnected.”

Several officers arrived at the home at 9:25 p.m., Lowe said and witnesses said.

Officers entered the residence. While they were in the home, three officers were shot, including one officer who died inside the home, Henry County Sheriff Kent Oberkrom said.

Lowe originally said the officers were fired upon outside the home and then entered, but Oberkrom on Wednesday morning said they were in the home when the suspect began shooting.

Waters was facing charges in Cass County for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance, according to court records.

Officer Christopher Ryan Morton
Clinton Police Officer Christopher Ryan Morton File photo

He was free on bond after his arrest in that case in November.

Court records show that he has previously served time in Missouri and federal prisons.

In 2008, he was sentenced in Buchanan County to nine years in prison for drug trafficking.

And in 2004, again in Buchanan County, he was sentenced to three years in prison for resisting arrest.

Federal court records show that he was sentenced in 2014 to nearly four years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The scanner traffic of the encounter was captured by Broadcastify.com.

“Shots fired. Shots . . .” an officer said shortly after arriving, according to the audio.

Three rapid gunshots can be heard on the transmission. A dispatcher then asks the officers for their status.

“Start an ambulance, we got one officer hit in the arm,” an officer responded.

“Nineteen, where you at?” one officer is heard asking.

“Backroom, right side,” the officer responded. “All the stuff in it.”

“Where are you?” the original officer asked.

“Backroom, right side, inside,” the wounded officer responded.

The original officer asked, “You good?”

The injured officer responded that he wasn’t. He said he had been hit multiple times and described where he had been shot.

“Central (dispatch), start me an ambulance,” the original said. “Get ‘em here now.”

Shortly thereafter, the injured officer advised that shots were still being fired in the house.

At one point, an officer asked whether the injured officer could make it out a window.

He responded that he didn’t think so.

An officer advised dispatch that, “19, 14 and 18 are all hit with assault rifle fire.”

“Nineteen, talk to us,” an officer said.

Dispatchers had an ambulance standby because there was still active fire.

“Crossfire, watch your crossfire guys,” an officer said.

“Morton, stay with us. Stay with us Morton,” an officer said.

Once the ambulance arrived near the scene, dispatchers asked if it was safe for it to come in and whether they had any more information on the injured officer.

“Negative. Negative,” an officer responded.

“We’re still in a fight,” an officer said. “We still have one down inside. We can’t get to him.”

“10-4. I got an ambulance staged in the area,” a dispatcher responded.

Officers then asked for Missouri Highway Patrol's tactical team to respond to the area.

The injured officers were taken away from the scene and the Missouri Highway Patrol arrived to help.

A highway patrol swat team made a plan to enter the residence. It entered about 12:10 a.m. The suspect was found dead inside the home.

Lowe said it was unclear whether officers killed the suspect or whether he killed himself. Lowe said he didn't know what happened to the women on the 911 call.

Hours later, investigators with the highway patrol continued to work at the scene.

The front porch of the house is littered with glass. The front window is shot out and the window blinds broken and shattered. Wires are strewn over the roof of the one-story house with white aluminum siding.

The front yard is gouged and the front walk busted by the giant tread tracks of a heavy armored police vehicle that drove into the yard last night.

The house — outfitted with five cameras on the roof and two motion detectors -- where the shooting occurred was the scene of a lot of traffic in and out, said neighbor Christina Littleton. A woman lived there for at least six years and a man lived there off and on for at least that long as well. The man had been seen coming and going a lot in the past few days, she said.

Littleton's brother, Anthony Haverland, 25, heard a big boom and then about five seconds later he saw an officer emptying his clip into the house from outside the house.

Neighbors saw two officers come out of the house. One was tying off the bloodied left arm of the other officer.

Haverland said shooting continued inside the house for an hour or hour and a half. Teams of tactical officers surrounded the house and yelled 30 or 40 times for the suspect to surrender, to come out of the house with his hands up.

Karen Conroy, who lives on the block, heard the first gun shot and was horrified by what she saw.

More gun shots sounded and she heard a woman screaming.

"It kept going, boom, boom, boom."

Then she saw two officers bring a wounded officer by her house toward an ambulance at the corner.

The escorting officers each had an arm around the wounded officer, "but he kept collapsing," Conroy said. "They kept trying to pick him up."

"It was so sad."

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb
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