(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe said no one spoke when the 911 call came in Tuesday night but two women could be heard arguing in the background. For reasons that authorities still are trying to determine, the officers were sent to the address in Clinton where they were shot. The home that officers should have responded to was in Windsor, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) away.
The three Clinton officers went inside the home to determine if criminal activity was occurring and James Waters was in the residence and shot them, Lowe said. It’s not clear if Waters, 37, was living there.
Officer Christopher Ryan Morton, 30, died. Officer Nathan Bettencourt was in stable condition Wednesday. The third officer, Nicholas Kasper, was treated for gunshot wounds and released Wednesday.
After the officers were shot, a SWAT team entered the house and found Waters dead. Investigators have not determined if he shot himself or was killed by the officers, Lowe said.
A woman who lived at the home, Tammy Widger, 37, was charged Wednesday with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and maintaining a public nuisance, Henry County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Shields said. Her bond was set at $25,000. Widger had sold drugs out of the home previously but it was not clear Wednesday if the officers’ shooting was directly related to a drug crime, Shields said.
Widger met the officers outside the home and said nothing was going on at the residence. The officers decided to check inside the home anyway to make sure no one was in danger, Lowe said. Waters was the only person in the home. His relationship to Widger was not immediately clear.
“It is a coincidence they were called to that specific address,” Lowe said. “It is tragic that happened. But the fact is they were in the act of committing crimes within that house. When (the officers) entered that house they were doing what they needed to ensure no one was hurt and there wasn’t any other problems.”
The two women heard arguing in the 911 call were not in any way connected to the Clinton home, Lowe said.
Shields said officers had been searching for Waters in connection with a rape case but that it wasn’t clear how he was involved.
Court records show Waters had convictions for drugs and resisting arrest. He served stints in prison from October 2000 through November 2002, May 2003 through April 2008, July 2008 through October 2012, and May 2014 through last July, according to Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Garry Brix.
Waters was charged in November in Cass County with unlawful possession of a firearm and drug possession, court records show. He pleaded not guilty, and the case was pending when he died.
Morton is the second Clinton police officer in the past year to be killed in the line of duty. In August, Officer Gary Michael was killed during a traffic stop. Ian McCarthy was arrested after a two-day manhunt and has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting. Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty.
Morton, who joined the Army in November 2005 and was twice deployed, returned in May 2014 from Afghanistan, where he served as a bridge crew member and radio communications manager, The Kansas City Star reported.
The Missouri Highway Patrol said Morton was a full-time Clinton officer from February 2015 through January 2017, when he temporarily became a reserve officer. He was inspired to return to full-time duty after Michael’s death and replaced Michael on the force, Lowe said.
“This type of incident is tragic for the community, for the Police Department and we all remember we were here seven months ago for the same reason,” Lowe said.
Clinton, with about 8,800 residents, is about 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Kansas City.
On Twitter, police departments across the U.S. offered their condolences:
A Clinton PD (MO) officer was shot and killed in the line of duty earlier this morning and multiple officers have been injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with the officer’s family, friends and colleagues. We also wish a full and speedy recovery for those injured. #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/jrPuShmonl— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) March 7, 2018
7 months after one of their officers was shot and killed, the Clinton, Missouri Police Department lost another officer last night when Officer Christopher Ryan Morton was shot and killed. 2 other officers also shot and injured. Keep this small town in your thoughts and prayers pic.twitter.com/b6eWMYtMtU— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) March 7, 2018
As tragedy strikes the Clinton, Missouri Police Department for the second time in 7 months, we send our thoughts and prayers to the department and community. Rest in peace Officer Morton. https://t.co/3Tkh5m7KYa— Lawrence Police (@LawrenceKS_PD) March 7, 2018
We extend our thoughts and our sincere condolences to the Clinton, Missouri Police Department, as well as the family and friends of Officer Christopher Morton, who was shot and killed last night.#ThinBlueLine— KS Highway Patrol (@kshighwaypatrol) March 7, 2018
Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of Clinton, Missouri Police Officer Christopher Morton, who was shot and killed in the line of duty last night. Two of his fellow officers were also shot and injured. The #NCPD stands with the #ClintonPD. pic.twitter.com/EogLbDVarA— NCPD (@NassauCountyPD) March 7, 2018
We are saddened to wake up to this, another officer shot in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends, family and colleagues of Clinton, Missouri Police Officer Christopher Morton. He was shot and killed when responding to a 911 call. pic.twitter.com/hUkwgL0nSJ— OCSD - North Patrol (@OCSDNorthPatrol) March 7, 2018
Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of the #Clinton #Missouri Police Department, the family and friends of the fallen Officer as well as with the two additional injured Officers. #ultimatesacrifice— Clackamas Sheriff (@ClackCoSheriff) March 7, 2018