CLINTON, Mo. — Authorities said Wednesday that Clinton police were actually sent to the wrong house Tuesday night when they were responding to a 911 call that led to three officers being shot, one of them fatally.
Missouri State Highway Patrol said Wednesday afternoon that Clinton officers were sent to 306 West Grandriver Street for a 911 call in which Henry County 911 operators could hear two women arguing in the background but no one was directly speaking to operators.
When officers arrived at the Clinton home, they came into contact with Tammy Widger, Sgt. Bill Lowe with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Wednesday. Widger told officers there wasn’t a problem, and no one else was in the home.
After confirming the address with dispatch, officers entered the home, which is where they encountered 37-year-old James E. Waters, who fired at the officers and killed Officer Christopher Ryan Morton.
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.
Lowe said Wednesday that further investigation traced the phone number from the 911 call to a Windsor, Missouri, address — not the Clinton home that police were sent to. Windsor is approximately 15 miles from Clinton.
“We were later able to determine it was not from that residence in which they were responding to,” he said. “We are still investigating on how it transpired as far as giving the residence that the officers were sent to, but that will be part of the continuing investigation.”
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.
Watch the full update from MSHP Sgt. Bill Lowe in the video player below.
On Wednesday, 37-year-old Widger was charged in Henry County with possession of meth with the intent to deliver as well as public nuisance, Henry County Prosecutor Richard Shields said. The county court has issued a warrant and set her bond at $25,000, he said.
“At this time, there’s no clear correlation,” Shields said of the woman’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.”
Authorities on Wednesday released a mug shot of Waters from a November 2017 arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance.
Morton, who goes by his middle name, Ryan, was just 30 years old when he was killed Tuesday night.
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.