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LAPD detective’s suicide haunts co-workers

In aftermath, peers are left to wonder why it happened

Posted: July 8, 2009 8:55 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 

Co-workers and neighbors of a Los Angeles Police detective who killed herself in the local Sheriff’s Station earlier this week said Wednesday she seemed like a pleasant and private person who never hinted she was suicidal.

“She actually texted one of her partners that evening saying, ‘I’ll see you on Wednesday,’” said Los Angeles Police narcotics unit Capt. Kevin McCarthy, who oversaw Detective Susan Clemmer. “It really came as a shock to all of us.”

Clemmer, 41, of Valencia, had spent about 19 years on the force. She had a career that began in national headlines — as a rookie, she was a key defense witness for her fellow officers in the Rodney King beating trials. She spent about a decade as a narcotics officer, working undercover for years and, most recently, investigating cases of drugs sent through the mail.

Her captain described her as an exemplary investigator.

“She was very talented, very pleasant, very well-educated and very articulate,” McCarthy said.

About 9:15 p.m. Monday, Clemmer walked into the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Magic Mountain Parkway and Valencia Boulevard with a handgun and a box of letters and phone numbers.

She appeared “agitated” when she spoke to two deputies at the counter and fatally shot herself in the head when they briefly left her alone to get help, said sheriff’s homicide Lt. Duane Harris.

Clemmer lived on a quiet Valencia cul-de-sac where every home has a gate before the front door.

People who live there tended to see each other when they left in the morning, came home at night or did occasional yardwork. Otherwise, everyone keeps to themselves, a neighbor said.

Two neighbors who would not give their names said Clemmer was especially private and they never saw anyone besides the detective enter or leave her house.

“I don’t want to say the cliche that she was really alone, but she was, pretty much,” one neighbor said.

Television camera crews and reporters have descended on the neighborhood since the suicide, they said.

At Clemmer’s house on Wednesday, relatives answered the door but declined to speak to a reporter.

Clemmer joined the LAPD in August 1989. She testified in defense of the officers who infamously beat Rodney King on March 3, 1991.

Clemmer rode in the ambulance with King after his beating and testified he was laughing and spitting blood on her uniform.

Her seemingly sudden and dramatic suicide has haunted her friends and coworkers. Many were struggling with it.

“By nature, we’re trained observers, so we’re always looking for something,” McCarthy said. “We’re kind of knocking our heads, saying, ‘Did we miss something?’”

 

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