A Missouri police officer was shot and killed, and two other officers were wounded after being sent to the wrong house following a 911 call, authorities said Wednesday.
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 authorities are still 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 15 miles away in Windsor.
The three Clinton officers went inside the home to determine if criminal activity was occurring and 37-year-old James Waters was in the residence and shot them, Lowe said. It's not clear if Waters 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, 37-year-old Tammy Widger, was charged 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 $25,0000. Widger had sold drugs out of the one previously but it was not clear Wednesday if the officers' shooting was directly related to a drug crime, Shields said.
Widger reportedly met the officers outside the home and said nothing was going on. The officers decided to check inside anyway to make sure no one was in danger. Waters was the only person inside the home, and 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.
In another coincidence, Shields said officers had been searching for Waters in connection with a rape case, but it wasn't clear how he was involved.
Court records show he had convictions for drugs and resisting arrest. He served in prison from Oct. 2000 through Nov. 20002, May 2003 through April 2008, July 2008 through Oct. 2012, and May 2014 through July 2017, according to Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Garry Brix.
Waters was involved in another case when he died. He was charged in November with unlawful possession of a firearm and drug possession. He pleaded not guilty and the case was pending when he died.
TIME reports that Morton is the second Clinton police officer to be killed in the line of duty in the past year. 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 seeking the death penalty.
Morton replaced Michael in September full time on the force after Michael's death; Morton had temporarily become a reserve officer from Feb. 2015 through Jan. 2017. Before that, he served in the Army and was deployed twice, coming home in May 2014 from Afghanistan.
“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 is about 70 miles east of Kansas City.