Sunday, November 01, 2009

Seattle Police Officer Shot in Central District

Updates and Breaking News at Bottom of Page

It isn’t all treats on Halloween.  Tonight a Seattle Police officer was shot just before ten PM in the Central District.  It is not known yet whether there is gang involvement.

Scant details are available but from the scanner we learned that there is one person dead at the scene, so hopefully not one of Seattle’s Best.His condition is not known at this time.   There were several reports of a car driving around the area shooting a gun into the air last night, and I’ve seen it mentioned that this was the reason for tonight’s stop of the vehicle, triggering a deadly firefight. 

Officers have spread out and are also using a chopper to look for the white or grey Toyota, with bullet holes in it.  Let’s hope they catch these guys quickly and that the officer makes a perfect recovery.

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Already a sad bit of news about the Seattle PD officer shot tonight. It has just been announced that he has died. He has become the 59th officer killed in the line of duty and only the first since 2006. My heart goes out to the family and the officers he worked with. I will make sure I attend the memorial
The gang unit is on scene, and the incident happened moving east from the Central District and into Leschi. The search for a grey or white Toyota with bullet holes in it. The Seattle PI Blog has more detail:

Update 2 (Nov. 1):

I mentioned a crack house a while back. On that day, two Seattle police officers drove by, saw us prying the plywood off the front door to gain access to the house (it was being surveyed for hazardous materials as required before demolition). They stopped and asked who we were, what we were doing. I showed them my ID, told them what we were doing. Their response was to "make it quick", as it doesn't "take long to get shot here". I replied that we would be quick, and asked if they'd hang around for ten minutes. They declined, saying that police officers in a patrol car were the most "visible targets of all". Sadly prophetic. This had better be a death penalty case when they make arrests.

Update 3 (Nov. 1):

Last night's shooting of veteran officer Timothy Brenton, who was killed seconds after he made a traffic stop, has shocked and saddened the city and especially the Seattle Police Department.
Brenton was a 9-year veteran of Seattle Police at the time of his death. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
Officer Britt Sweeny was in the driver's seat and the two officers had just completed a traffic stop. They were discussing the procedures for the situation when a light-colored car pulled alongside and opened fire. Bullets struck Brenton in the head, killing him. Bullets grazed Sweeny, tearing furrows in her vest and uniform shirt. Sweeney is 33- years-old and a recent graduate of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center. She was treated and released at Harborview Medical Center.
The police chief had high praise for the trainee's response to a very intense situation, saying "Officer Sweeney was able to get on the air and summon additional officers to the scene. Officer Sweeney’s performance was exemplary under the most stressful and horrific call imaginable". Sweeny got off perhaps six shots at the suspect's vehicle as it made off down the street. She then made the officer down call, which scrambled units from every precinct in Seattle, as well as fire and rescue units, homicide and crime scene units. A recent academy graduate, being trained as a patrol officer, she handled herself very well. I hope she goes on to have a long and safe career in the SPD.
It is times like these that the thin blue line seems to stretch even thinner. When armed and uniformed officers become random targets how can any of us feel safe? A bank account is being set up for the family of officer Brenton and I'll post more information on the particulars when it is available.
I thought this verse by a Norfolk policeman appropriate for the loss of Officer Brenton:


Update 4 (Nov. 2):

From the Seattle Times:
In less than 10 years on the Seattle Police Department, Officer Timothy Brenton impressed his superiors so much they asked him to train other officers in the field.
He was doing that Saturday night, teaching rookie officer Britt Sweeney, when he was killed, apparently randomly in a drive-by shooting while sitting in a patrol car on a tree-lined street. Sweeney, only on duty for about a month, suffered minor injuries.
"Everybody loved him," said his uncle, Jon Brenton, 50, of Kingston, who recalled his nephew's quick smile and great sense of humor.
Timothy Brenton, 39, came from a family of police officers, the uncle said. The slain officer's father and another uncle are retired Seattle police officers, Jon Brenton said.
Brenton lived in a house in a leafy, middle-class neighborhood in Marysville, on a cul-de-sac with his wife and two young children.
"Just a regular American family; going to work, making a living," said neighbor Mark Flanders, 49, as he stood in his yard.
Brenton's two children, an 8-year-old boy and a girl, 11, are in elementary school, Flanders said.
Flanders described Brenton as a "quiet family man" and said the officer's wife, Lisa, worked as a nurse.
Jon Brenton said he learned of the shooting in a 2:30 a.m. phone call Sunday from the officer's father, Boyd Brenton, of La Conner.
"He was pretty broken," Brenton said. "It was kind of unbelievable to him. It was just kind of a dream."

Update 5 (Nov. 2):

For a series of photos related to the story:
There is a moving photo and more detail on this page:
I avoid reading the comments with this type of thing because there are always some that irk me. Of course, before I realized I had read on into the comments I saw some asshat complaining that there were too many vehicles and officers present to honor the fallen officer as his remains were transferred. The assistant chief was right in pointing out that these people, the men and women of the SPD had to go right on with their jobs, without a break to 'process' or grieve. They were breaking up fights and responding to incidents all night on the busy Halloween night.
There were even a few comments like "one cop less" , and I was pleased to see this response to that nauseating comment:
"Hey all. Thanks for the kind words on behalf of this fallen officer. To the folks who have made the disparaging comments...Imagine that there are police so liberal and open minded that they read the even. You dumb asses still think we're all right wing fascist robots? I didn't like the police much until I grew up. Things have changed and there are many of us who hang out in your clubs, listen to your music and vote for your party. I hope the criminals you obviously prefer do right by you. Since I know they won't, the next time one of them stabs your ass for your IPod, go ahead and call. I'll come running to help you even though you hate me and celebrate the death of my kind." This was from a post in the Stranger, BTW.

Update 6 (Nov. 2):

All reports are that the car was not the one stopped for traffic violation, and that car had departed before the assailant's vehicle pulled alongside. Once shots had been fired the assailant reversed, made a three-point turn and sped off. Officer Sweeny returned fire, and may have hit the fleeing vehicle as it drove off. There is just one reference thus far to the assailant having watched or witnessed the traffic stop, though there are no denials of that statement at this point. Indications are that several witnesses have come forward from the neighboring residences and there have been a lot of tips phoned in. As of this time there is a $21,000 reward available. There are some rumors about gang initiation, a person of interest picked up later that night and then re-arrested after posting bond for an unrelated crime, as well as some other less credible (to my mind) rumors.

Update 7 (Nov. 2):

Reports are that this person of interest is being held on $30k bail - The DA asked for $150k. The charge is obstruction. The POI allegedly made a reference to someone being taken out.
UPDATED: The deputy chief downplayed this person in relation to the shooting but wouldn't rule out his involvement. The man has made threats and assaulted officers in the past, and was arrested on October 30 for making such a threat. He was free between the morning of October 31 and the early morning hours of November 1.

Update 8 (Nov. 2):

Writing that comment about the assailant driving to the side of the cruiser, shooting, then backing up, executing a 3-point turn and driving away made me think that this was planned. That sequence seems like something cumbersome and uninstinctual to do without planning. Why do it? To keep from showing up on the police vehicle's video camera, mounted and facing forward. Maybe I am reading to much into it...

Update 9 (Nov. 2):

Seattle PD Changes Deployment and Warns Other Departments of 'Hit' --
from the Seattle Times:
Seattle police are warning other departments to take steps to protect officers after the Halloween night drive-by shooting that killed a veteran officer and grazed a rookie.
Interim Chief John Diaz told a city council briefing Monday it was a "hit on law enforcement." He says Seattle police are changing the way officers are deployed.
Detectives are following tips, looking for the car that fled the scene and the person responsible for killing Timothy Brenton. The 39-year-old training officer from Marysville was hit in the head as he sat in a car reviewing a traffic stop with officer Britt Sweeney. She is recovering at home as she works with investigators.
Diaz says a large venue is being sought for a funeral for Brenton.


Update 10 (Nov. 2):

Update on memorial service for Officer Brenton
The memorial service for Officer Timothy Brenton is scheduled for Friday, November 6th at 1:00 p.m. at the Key Arena.
The men and women of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, along with contributions from concerned citizens and Crime Stoppers, are now offering a reward of up to $40,000.00 for information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the murder of Officer Timothy Brenton and the attempted murder of Student Officer Britt Sweeny.

Update 11 (Nov. 3):

The person of interest mentioned earlier today has been de-emphasized and police do not think it likely he had anything to do with the murder of Officer Brenton or the wounding of Officer Sweeny. Hundreds of tips have flooded in, and police have dozens of officers following up every witness, tip and lead. ATF, the U.S. Marshal, the FBI, King County Sherriff and officers from other cities and the department of corrections (dealing with parolee and work-release cases) are all involved in following up leads.
According to CASEY MCNERTHNEY of the Seattle PI, "police have terabytes of video evidence that they were reviewing, trying to determine if something related to the shooting was captured.
"'We are bringing some detectives who have had experiences with other task forces that are knowledgeable in the handling of huge volumes of information, cataloging that and getting it electronically recorded so we can search it and otherwise compare it with any other information that's going to come in in the future,"' according to Assistant Chief Jim Pugel. Reports indicate that police are reviewing and collating video and audio from all police responses including traffic stops in the area and about the time that the shooting took place. In addition to numerous dash-mounted video recordings, police are also looking at video from businesses in the area. Once reviewed the video and audio data are being catalogued to make it easier to cross-check time sequences, vehicles, etc.
On October 22 several Seattle Police Department patrol cars were set on fire. Though the arson occurred on the very day that a small group of 20-30 people gathered in the downtown area as part of a nation-wide (but modestly attended) effort to protest police brutality. There is no indication that the arson is linked in any way to the shooting of Officers Brenton and Sweeny, and no reason to implicate them in any way with the protest. In fact, the arsonist left fliers protesting police brutality at the scene of the arson, though the reason the arsonist chose to set Seattle Police cars on fire as a protest of the actions of a King County Sherriff's deputy who assaulted a teenage girl in custody is unclear. That deputy had been fired and is facing criminal charges as a result of the incident. The Assistant Chief reiterated several time that all leads and possibilities were being looked at and worked.
Some people scoffed a bit at Mayor Greg Nickels today when he commented that SPD is one of the strongest departments in the country at solving 'these complicated cases'. Though it may appear to be a straightforward drive-by shooting, the department is going to have to sort through a huge amount of data to sift out the real evidence in the case. Massive amounts of recorded surveillance, hundreds of interviews, timelines, prior cases, other police actions that night, parolees arrested by the officer, people who made threats previously...very quickly it becomes apparent just what the Mayor meant when he called a 'simple drive-by' a complicated case. He is also correct that SPD has a national reputation for solving complex cases. I hope this is one of them. MB


Update 12 (Nov.3):

I agree completely with Jonah Spangenthal-Lee of when he says that now is not the time to play the dispatch tape recording Officer Sweeny's call for backup after the ambush on Halloween night. He partner had just been hit multiple times, killed instantly, and she had been grazed and narrowly missed by other rounds. The interim Chief of Police has praised her for her professionalism in extreme circumstances even veteran officers would find very tough. She responded like a professional, and from the transcript below (from we get a glimpse into her humanity:
(0:00) Sweeney: Shots fired, 29th and Yesler!
(0:06) Dispatcher: Is there a unit calling radio?
(0:15) Officer 1: I believe she said I-5 north of yesler
(0:19) Operator: 3 george 13?
(0:22) Sweeney: [sobs]
(0:24) Operator: 3 George 13? I map George 13, I show her at 29 and E yesler way, if units could [surge?] that way
(0:37) Sweeney: Help. Shots fired [sobs]
(0:42) Sweeney: My partner’s dead.
(0:44) Dispatcher: I need units to 29 and East Yesler
(0:47) Officer 2: Edward 32’s on his way [Siren]
(1:00) Officer 1: 3 George en route
(1:08) Sweeney: Help me.
(1:13) Dispatcher: Help the officer 29 and E Yesler
(1:24) Sweeney: I need medical
(1:38) Officer 1: George 31 arriving
(2:01) Officer 1: George 33, we’ve got officer down. We need more, uh, we need fire here now.
(2:08) Dispatcher: Fire’s on the way.


Update 13 (Nov. 3)

There has been a fund established for the family of Officer Timothy Brenton. Donations may be made at any Bank of America branch under the “Brenton Family Assistance Fund.”
Officer Brenton leaves a wife and two children, ages 8 and 11, as well as his father and uncle, both retired Seattle Police Officers.

Update 14 (Nov. 3):

Officer Brenton's Family Thanks Community for Support

The Central District News blog has posted this video of Deputy Chief Pugel reading a handwritten letter from the family of slain officer Tim Brenton:

The text of the letter:
"The family of Officer Tim Brenton would like to thank the community for the tremendous outpouring of support. Even with the tragic loss, Tim’s wife and children are finding solace in the support from the police community, their friends and family, and the community as a whole. We know that Tim would be honored and humbled by the limitless support that has been provided at the difficult time. We sincerely thank you for the generous emotional support, thoughts, and prayers."

Update 15 (Nov. 3):

The reward in this case has reached $85,000 and in all likelihood is expected to exceed $100k in the next day or two.
Police are looking into several avenues of inquiry based on witness accounts, surveillance video and even information from other departments. One connection police are looking into is to determine if a similar incident in Southern California is linked to the murder of Officer Brenton. At this time there is no reason to link them, but it is being investigated along with the arson targeting police cars, any threats or recent assaults on police officers. ATF and the FBI have been brought into the investigation as well. So far, the department continues to say they have no person of interest and no motive established.

Update 16 (Nov. 4):

Investigators are now saying that dashboard camera video shows a vehicle which may be the small, light-colored car from which the fatal shots were fired. The video was recorded near the location and time of the Halloween shooting.

Update 17 (Nov. 4):

More on the video lead: It appears that the video in which police may have a pretty useful photo of the vehicle driven by the killer originated with the dash camera of one of the units responding immediately after the shooting. As that unit approached the area it captured images of a light-colored coupe leaving the area. Man I hope a license plate was visible. The bulletin advises officers checking out light colored coupe vehicles to approach with extreme caution. The Seattle Times, crimeblog and Seattle Weekly are all reporting similar information, and the Weekly even reminded drivers of cars matching this vague description to avoid any sudden moves if stopped. No doubt.
Another piece of new information being reported today may or may not be related to the ambush investigation, but is certainly being followed up zealously. The arson which damaged four Seattle Police Department vehicles a couple of weeks ago was committed using pipe bomb devices - something that had not been reported previously and which clearly ups the ante over a simpler means of ignition. We also are hearing that a note threatening officers and equipment of the Seattle Police Department was found at the location of the arson. It is still not clear whether the arson and the murder are connected but certainly there is a strong motivation to check it out.

Update 18 (Nov. 4):

Reward reaches $105,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the murderer of Officer Tim Brenton. There will be a procession of vehicles from Husky Stadium through the city to the Memorial service at Key Arena. Police estimate well over 1,000 cars will take part in the procession and word is they are planning to accommodate 5,000. Police and firefighters from dozens of departments in Washington, Idaho and Oregon are sending contingents to show support.

Update 19 (Nov. 4):

KING news is reporting that Seattle Police found a backpack downtown containing the names of officers, the shifts they are assigned to, and times they would come and go. No idea yet if that is connected to the murder, or to the arson, or even to both, but it is being looked at hard. Police also have a bulletin out on the specific car that is believed to have been driven by the killer. It fits the description, and when videotaped by a patrol car responding to Officer Sweeny's "Shots fired"
the manner in which the suspect car was being driven is being termed suspicious. They are not yet prepared to say whether the car was involved, but the Seattle PD is very interested in talking with the owner. They're holding back the specific make and model to use in deciding which tips are likely to be accurate.

Update 20 (Nov.5):

SPD now is saying that they have video from 2-3 police cars showing the same car driving in a reckless manner as the units raced to the location of the shooting.
No official confirmation of the specific license, but multiple sources are now reporting that the investigation is using the information as a hold-back. There is a statewide bulletin to stop cars matching that description, and officers are told to approach with extreme caution.
A weird tidbit emerged overnight. A man was arrested at a bar in Ballard last night, and that unremarkable fact has been mentioned repeatedly in posts, blogs and news reports as being in some way related to the investigation, though police aren't commenting. Could be nothing, could be a break.
The impromptu memorial for Officer Brenton has continued to grow. The scene is somber, and a huge array of flowers have been laid at the spot where the patrol car was parked. The color guard for the memorial service was present for a while yesterday afternoon while Officer Brenton's family was there seeing both the site of the murder and the informal memorial.
Nearby, just a few blocks from the scene, new threats have appeared - tagged to a building by a gang well-known to SPD. The note is specific, threatening a particular detective by name. I'm just hoping that this bad situation doesn't serve as an impetus for a broader attack on officers.
This investigation is covering a lot of ground, and every day there are rumors popping up concerning possible breaks in the case. I try to avoid these unless they are something I've heard from one of two sources.

Update 21 (Nov. 5):

The Memorial Service will be at 1PM tomorrow. The procession of cars will leave UW at 9 AM and will take about three hours to reach the arena. It's not being publicly stated whether Officer Sweeny will attend, but it will be a surprise if she doesn't. What a strong person she is; one need only listen to the radio call for backup and how she handled a really tough situation to see that toughness.
The Space Needle had a ceremony at 10AM this morning to honor Officer Brenton. A 600 square foot flag was hoisted aloft by members of the SPD honor guard. The flag represents a Seattle PD badge with black band around it and Officer Brenton's badge number on a field of white.

Update 22 (Nov. 5):

The man arrested at the bar in Ballard was taken into custody for questioning when other bar patrons reported to police that he was making threatening remarks about police. SPD has subsequently said that the man is not connected to the murder of officer Brenton.

Update 23 (Nov. 5):

Here is video of the flag-raising:
Local stations have not announced whether they will cover the service live or not, but here are the main stations:
King 5 has been out front in getting information thus far, the website is:
KOMO (Komo is reporting now that Officer Sweeny has asked to return to work, saying she wants to get back out there.
I'll post more if and when the stations announce plans.


Update 24 (Nov. 5):

KOMO has confirmed they will show the ceremony live online at the above website.
There is a picture of the 1980-1983 Datsun located on several sites, now, including KOMO:


Update 25 (Nov. 5):

Here is a clearer image taken just before the murder. The car is a Datsun 2 door hatchback of the B210 type.

Update 26 (Nov. 5):

For information on the car as well as a psychological profile (I know, they are not always helpful, but it is worth a try), go to Suspected car and possible suspect profile

Update 27 (Nov. 6):

Cars have begun moving along the procession route from the UW toward Key Arena, where the memorial for Officer Tim Brenton will be held at 1PM today. 

Investigators have now indicated that photos of the car carrying the person that murdered officer Brenton have been retrieved from the patrol car used that night by Officers Sweeny and Brenton.  This photo, mentioned previously as having been taken prior to the shooting, indicates that the assailant likely followed the patrol car for about fifteen minutes before the shooting.  No word yet on whether this indicates specific targeting of particular officers, or just officers the assailant happened upon first. 

The procession and memorial are being webcast live here:

Update 28 (Nov. 6):

The procession this morning was very moving with people along the streets with hands over hearts and black ribbons on garments.  It was extremely quiet as the vehicles passed by, and it is my hope that the family and officers of SPD feel the support and respect of the community.  The memorial is live on the websites l noted above.  There are officers from all over the country and Canada.  It is impressive to see how many have come out despite traffic and severe weather today.  I've not seen Officer Sweeny yet, but I understand she will be here.

SPD has said that they will not be releasing any informational updates on the case for the next three days unless there is a break, of course.  This is to allow the focus to be on Officer Brenton and his family rather than the murder during this period immediately following the memorial.

Update 29 (Nov. 6):

A huge, multi-agency police response is underway in Tukwila outside an apartment building.  Early video from a local news helicopter showed a man being pulled from the building after having been shot, presumably by officers.  There is no indication what the incident was, or what the police are at the scene for, beyond responding to gunfire.  It is being reported that officers from the Seattle Police Homicide division are on scene, along with as many as thirty units from at least five law enforcement agencies.  Could be related to the murder of Officer Brenton, or it may not.  Updates as available.   

Update 30 (Nov.6):


Police from Tukwila shot a person while executing a search warrant this afternoon.  Helicopter video shows a police car blocking in a car which resembles a hatchback of the type suspected in the shooting of Officer Brenton.  The car is under a cloth cover, but definitely looks like a possible match for the Datsun B210 being looked for.  Seattle police sources have confirmed that they have a person of interest they are looking for in the Brenton case.  Homicide from Seattle is present and there are now upwards of forty-five units on scene at this location.  There are several investigators present on this scene who have been working on Tim Brenton’s case, and they have confirmed unofficially that this person may be the suspect in the shooting.

Update 31 (Nov. 6):

Tukwila Police are confirming that the man they shot when he displayed a gun as officers served a search warrant is in fact the suspect Seattle Police are looking for in the shooting of Officer Tim Brenton.  The suspect, who was wounded and I believe was wounded in the torso, is a man in his late thirties and is of mixed race – no other details are available.    The car is still under a tarp. 

Update 32 (Nov.6):

Deputy Chief Jim Pugel has arrived on the scene and is being briefed now.  He is expected to talk with reporters in the next 30 minutes.  The suspect is at Harborview Medical Center, and a second person has been taken into custody.  It is not clear how the second person is connected.  Some reports indicate a third person is being talked to, but most are still reporting two suspects. 

Update 33 (Nov. 6):

The Seattle Times is reporting that Interim Chief John Diaz is indicating that there are two people being detained as witnesses (not suspects) in the Brenton investigation.  The person of interest in the case was indeed shot to the head and is at Harborview.  A reporter has commented that there was a lot of blood in the ambulance.  The two additional detainees are being interviewed because they associated with the person of interest, not because they are suspects.  He also indicated that the person shot was hit by Seattle Police, not Tukwila police.  The man fired first. 

Police looked at all 18 registered Datsun B210 units in Washington and found that none matched.  That was the point at which they released the photos and asked for public assistance.  It is believed that a tip lead them to this location.

Update 34 (Nov. 6):

Seattle police were NOT serving a search warrant, but they were present to talk with a person of interest.  As officers approached the man, outside the apartment building, the man began to run, then pulled a handgun.  It is not clear whether the man shot his weapon before being shot, but three Seattle detectives fired their weapons when the man drew his gun. 

There was a tip that the person of interest was associated with a car matching the description of the Datsun.  The vehicle was covered by a tarp, and the police did not put the tarp in place.  There were rumors at the memorial service this afternoon that police had a good tip to follow up on, and the timing of the events just after the end of the memorial service does make me wonder if the detectives were monitoring the man until the service ended.  Interim Chief Diaz has said that ‘this is THE car’ – meaning that the car under the tarp is indeed the vehicle used in the crime.  Police are being cautious and have asked for a search warrant to be sure access to the car is clear.  I cannot say whether the Chief’s comments mean that the car has bullet holes in it or not. 

The person of interest is in critical condition at Harborview, and is under heavy guard.  Officers at the hospital have been heard commenting that this is ‘our guy’. 

Police are being very cautious in searching the car and the apartment in case any potential dangers are present.  If the case is connected to the arson which recently damaged four Seattle Police vehicles, and included several pipe bombs, they have good reason to be cautious. 

There have been several radio communications indicating that the suspect has died, but no official or news source confirmation yet. 

Update 35 (Nov. 6):

Reports are now indicating that the man not only drew his weapon, but pulled the trigger.  The gun misfired, and the man didn’t get a second squeeze. 

A tip from a citizen who saw the photos of the vehicle used in the murder of Officer Brenton brought police to the scene of today’s shooting of a person of interest in the attack.  The tipster apparently became suspicious when photos appeared and the tipster realized that the car had been covered since the night of the attack.


Michael Burt said...

Already a sad bit of news about the Seattle PD officer shot tonight. It has just been announced that he has died. He has become the 59th officer killed in the line of duty and only the first since 2006. My heart goes out to the family and the officers he worked with. I will make sure I attend the memorial
The gang unit is on scene, and the incident happened moving east from the Central District and into Leschi. The search for a grey or white Toyota with bukket holes in it.

Damn. Let me say it again to our many law enforcement people from every type of organization associated with the justice system. THANK YOU for your service! Bless the fallen.

Michael Burt said...

The Seattle PI Blog of Casey MacInerny has more detail.

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.