The community of Clinton is heartbroken yet again as, for the second time in seven months, a police officer was shot and killed.
Officers were sent to a home about 10 p.m. Tuesday after a frantic 911 call in which women were heard screaming in the background.
Police responded to the home, located in the 300 block of West Grandriver Street, and went inside. Once inside, the suspect surprised officers firing multiple shots with a semi-automatic rifle hitting three officers.
Clinton Police Department officer Christopher Ryan Morton, 30, remained in a bedroom for several minutes before being rescued by the other officers. He was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his wounds.
Officer Nathan Bettencourt is recovering at a Kansas City hospital and is in stable condition, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. He underwent surgery on Wednesday.
Officer Nicholas Kasper was treated and released from an area hospital.
The suspect in the killing of Morton has been identified as James E. Waters, 37, from Clinton. Waters has a criminal history and has been in prison for robbery, resisting arrest and drug-related charges.
In an update provided by the Missouri Highway Patrol, it was revealed that the officers were sent to the wrong home.
Officer Ryan Morton is the second officer in the department to be murdered in the line of duty in less than a year.
Investigators say the 911 call was actually from a different house than the shooting.
The home where the officers were shot was actually about 15 miles away from where the 911 call originated.
No one spoke to the dispatcher when the call came in but she heard two women screaming at each other. The number traced back to the address in Clinton.
A woman answered and said she was fine but after double checking the address with dispatch, they went inside to check on what they thought was the second woman and that’s when a man inside started firing at them.
They returned fire but all three officers were shot.
Only after the fact did investigators learn the 911 call that brought those officers here actually came from a town about 15 miles away - from someone who didn’t even know the shooter.
“This happened because of criminal activity already taking place," Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri Highway Patrol said. "Yes it is a coincidence that they were called to that specific address and it is tragic that that happened."
No one spoke to the dispatcher when the call came in, but she heard two women screaming at each other.
Waters was found dead shortly after midnight when members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol SWAT team entered the home.
Full update from police:
Officials say Morton served with distinction for the citizens of Clinton as a full-time police officer from February 2015 to January 2017. He stayed with the department as a reserve officer until again returning to full-time duty shortly after Clinton Police officer Gary Michael was killed in the line of duty in August 2017.
He was a veteran of the Army National Guard and is survived by his parents and siblings.
Henry County Sheriff Kent Oberkrom told KCTV5 News that Morton was a great officer.
"I visited with him three weeks ago at the gas pumps. He just pulled up to say hi. He was just one of those kind of guys," Oberkrom said. "I thought he was getting fuel and he said, 'No, I just stopped to talk to you Sheriff, just to see how things were going.' Just one of those kind of guys."
“Our hearts ache for our brothers in blue at the CPD,” the Clinton Fire Department said in a statement. “Our community has lost another public servant due to a police officer-involved shooting. We are praying and ask that each of you pray for all involved and especially for the family of the officer who was killed in the line of duty this evening.”
Christina Littleton witnessed the situation from her house across the street.
"It's like something you see in Kansas City but not here in this small town. So, it was really nerve-wracking and I was really worried about our officers," Littleton said.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe says the law enforcement community is saddened by the tragic event.
“It’s hard to put into words what you go through when you have an officer killed in a line of duty," Lowe said. "And then to have it happen to a department after a short period of time, it’s hard to wrap your head around.”
Lowe spoke about the bravery of the Clinton Police Department and the community.
“It goes without saying that these officers put themselves in jeopardy on a daily basis. Especially for this community, they’re going to have to have another healing process take place,” Lowe said.
Officers took a woman into custody at the scene. They did not say why she was arrested.
The Clinton Fire Department is also flying a Thin Blue Line flag outside their headquarters.
Officers from the Clinton Police Department, Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol were called to the scene during the incident.
Here is the statement from Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on the death Morton:
“Through the ages, the people who protect us go by different names. In one era, they are called warriors. In another, knights.
In our era, the people who walk our streets and defend the defenseless are given an honored name: they are called police officers.
Today, in the state of Missouri, we lost one of our police officers. He was a thirty-year old gentleman whose name was Ryan Morton. Officer Morton was a member of the Clinton Police Department, and late last night, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.
All of us can stop today and pray for him and his blessed memory. We can think about his family, and we can, for a moment, share in their grief. And these are good and right things, and we should do them.
I’d ask us to do one more thing: think of this police department and all police departments throughout our state. This fall, the Clinton Police Department lost Officer Gary Michael. I got to know the men and women of the Clinton Police Department and the community through that tragedy.
Officer Morton took Officer Michael’s post in the department. Those two warriors are together now, in the company of God, who has brought his sons home.
We are blessed to live in a time and place with men and women of the character and quality of Officer Morton and Officer Michael. And it’s because they are men and women of such strength and wisdom and love that we feel such grief when they leave us.
We mourn our servants today. We bless their memory. We honor their families. And we will—we must—do everything in our power to stand by this department and community in their grief.
God bless every single police officer in the state of Missouri and around the country. God bless you, and your families, and the communities you call home.”
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt released the following statement on the death of Morton:
“Officer Christopher Morton put his life on the line in service to his community and our nation, and we are deeply saddened by his loss,” Blunt said. “Officer Morton’s death is yet another stark reminder of the danger our law enforcement men and women face every day. Every time they put on the uniform, they put our lives and our safety ahead of their own. We are forever grateful to them and their families for their sacrifice. Our thoughts are with Officer Morton’s family, the two officers who were injured, and the Clinton Police Department.”
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler released the following statement:
“Officer Christopher Ryan Morton gave the ultimate sacrifice last night, and I am grieved to hear of his passing. His life clearly was one based on sacrifice and service, as he deployed twice with the Army National Guard before returning home to continue serving his country as a police officer,” she said. “Police officers in communities big and small put their lives on the line every day to protect us and our families, and they deserve our highest respect and our heartfelt gratitude. I pray for the family, friends, and colleagues Officer Morton left behind and for his two fellow officers who are still in the hospital.”
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