CLINTON, Mo. — Tammy Widger, 37, the Clinton, Mo., woman police encountered shortly before they were hit by deadly gunfire Tuesday night, has been charged in Henry County with one count of felony delivery of a controlled substance and one count felony keeping or maintaining a public nuisance.
A Henry County 911 operator sent Clinton police officers to a home at 306 West Grandriver Street where they encountered Widger. On the 911 call, an operator could hear two women arguing in the background, but no one was directly speaking to operators. The 911 call-tracing system indicated the phone from which the call was coming was connected to the Grandriver Street address Widger was at. After further investigation, police realized the call had actually come from Windsor, about 15 miles away.
When police arrived at 306 West Grandriver Street to investigate, they say Widger told them nothing was wrong and that she did not call 911, nor did anyone in the house. Police told her that due to the nature of 911 call, they needed to check the home to make sure no one was in need inside. As they did, police say James Waters, 37, opened fire on them. The gunfire killed Officer Ryan Morton, 30.
Once the scene had cleared and as they continued to investigate, police asked for a search warrant to collect evidence from the Grandriver Street home where Morton died. Police say they found Widger’s purse and inside of it was a bag containing what looked like marijuana, methamphetamine and pills.
When they questioned Widger, authorities say she told them she ‘assisted James Waters’ in distributing methamphetamine.’ She further stated that in exchange for this service, Waters paid her bills.
Lowe said Waters was part of another investigation involving an alleged rape, so that part of the investigation will also be in conjunction with the investigation into the shooting, he said.
“At this time, there’s no clear correlation,” Shields said of Widger’s charges. “We’re just alleging that she, at that time, was in possession and that possession at that time was with the intent to deliver.”
“Yes, it is a coincidence that they were called to that specific address, and it is tragic that that happened, but the fact is they were in the act of committing crimes within that house,” Lowe said. “They were doing so to ensure that nobody else was hurt or there wasn’t any other problems, and so when they were given the information that no one was in the house, they had to verify that. And that point in time that’s when the tragedy occurred.”
Two other officers were injured in the shooting. Officer Nathan Bettencourt is in stable condition, recovering from gunshot wounds and surgery at a Kansas City-area hospital. Officer Nicholas Kasper was also treated for gunshot wounds and was released from the hospital earlier Wednesday.
Additional agencies were called to the Clinton home, including members of the Bates County Tactical Team and the MSHP Troop A SWAT Team, who entered the home to get to Morton. Lowe said it took 15 to 20 minutes from the first ‘officer down’ call to get inside to him.
“That’s just a guess. It could have been longer than that,” Lowe said.
Then, just after midnight, officers entered the home again to apprehend Waters, who was found dead from a gunshot wound in a bathroom, Lowe said.
Morton worked as a full-time Clinton police officer from Feb. 12, 2015, to Jan. 10, 2017. He then worked as a reserve officer until Sept. 24, 2017, when he returned to the force full-time.
He also served in the Army National Guard as a specialist. He returned home in May of 2014 from Afghanistan where he served as a bridge crew member, a radio communications manager and maintained all military bridges in multiple regional commands.
The 30-year-old is from Knob Noster, Missouri, approximately 70 miles or an hour and 15 minute drive east from the metro. He attended Knob Noster High School and later studied at University of Central Missouri.
This makes the second Clinton officer shot and killed in the line of duty in the past year.
It was seven months ago to the day that Officer Gary Michael was killed after he was shot during a traffic stop on August 6.
“It’s just devastating,” Henry County Sheriff Kent Oberkrom said. “Certainly when Officer Michael was killed on August 6 of last year it was just devastating to our community, and these things as we’ve said then and I’ll say it again, they just don’t happen in small towns like ours.”
Now, once again, Clinton officers will face the horrible task of burying one of their own.
“It’s just another tragic event for this community and especially this police department. They’ve endured a lot. They’re going to endure more,” Sgt. Lowe said.