Cop killer Christopher Monfort was formally sentenced Thursday to life in prison for fatally ambushing Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton on Halloween night 2009.
Christopher Monfort conceded he “killed a good man” before he was officially sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release Thursday morning for fatally shooting Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton during a three-week crime spree in the fall of 2009.
While Monfort said he regretted hurting Brenton’s family, he didn’t apologize for randomly gunning him down.
“It was pure luck, purely random, much in the way cowardly officers brutalize the citizens — it just seems to be random,” said Monfort, who spoke for 13 minutes before he was sentenced.
Monfort said, “I killed a good man. That’s the hardest thing I have ever done, as it should be. Taking a life should be the hardest thing you ever do.”
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He then launched into a rant about police brutality, prompting members of Brenton’s family to leave the courtroom. He said violence was the only language police understand.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler told Monfort he didn’t just take “an innocent life,” but wasted his own promise as someone who could’ve spent his life working for social justice.
“Had the jury returned a verdict of death, we would be reading about Mr. Monfort for the next 15 or 20 years,” the judge said. Since the jury decided to be merciful, “in a year, there will be a one-inch story in the newspaper about his appeal and Mr. Monfort will pass into pitiless insignificance.”
Kessler sentenced Monfort to spend the rest “of his natural life in prison.” He also agreed to follow the state’s recommendation and sentenced Monfort to a little over 65 years for his other crimes.
“Make it so,” Monfort said.
After nearly four months of testimony, jurors rejected Monfort’s insanity defense and convicted him June 5 of aggravated first-degree murder for killing Brenton, and three other felonies.
One week ago, the same jury deliberated for less than an hour before unanimously agreeing that Monfort, 46, should spend the rest of his life in prison instead of being sent to death row for Brenton’s killing.
Monfort also was found guilty of first-degree arson for setting a fire and detonating pipe bombs that destroyed a handful of police vehicles at the city’s Charles Street maintenance facility nine days before Brenton was fatally shot, as well as two counts of attempted first-degree murder for trying to kill Officer Britt Kelly (nee Sweeney) and Sgt. Gary Nelson.
Kelly, Brenton’s then-rookie partner, managed to duck the shots that killed Brenton, her field-training officer, as they sat in their patrol car on Halloween night on a residential street in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood. She returned fire at Monfort’s fleeing vehicle, a Datsun 210, and used her police radio to call for help.
Then on Nov. 6, 2009, Nelson and two other homicide investigators were following up on a tip about the Datsun when Monfort pointed a gun at Nelson’s head and pulled the trigger outside his Tukwila apartment building. The gun failed to fire because a bullet hadn’t been chambered, and Monfort was shot twice.
He was shot once in the face, with a second round paralyzing him from the waist down.
Monfort’s guilt wasn’t debated at trial, with the state presenting overwhelming evidence — including DNA and ballistics — that tied Monfort to all three crime scenes. Instead, his mental state — and differing diagnoses of mental illness — became the crux of the case, with the jury finding he knew right from wrong and so was morally culpable for his crimes but not deserving of a death sentence.
Mother, widow speak
During Thursday’s emotional sentencing, Brenton’s mother, Penny Brenton, called Monfort a coward, a self-absorbed liar and a whiner “who tried to make your mother responsible for your crimes.”
“You are no less a coward than any other drive-by shooter,” she told Monfort.
Brenton’s widow, Lisa Brenton, called Monfort a “nonentity.”
“I don’t think about you at all,” she said.
Noting that Monfort took away the father of two young children, she said her slain husband would never know what his son and daughter would look like when they grow up.
“He was the epitome of what a police officer and a human being should be,” and believed “every situation is unique and every person is valuable.”
See Lisa Brenton speak in court:
Given that Monfort will be serving a life sentence without the possibility of release, he will be assigned to either the Clallam Bay Corrections Center or the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, said Stephen Sinclair, the state Department of Corrections’ assistant secretary over prisons. But Walla Walla may be the better option since the prison has “a pretty robust health-care facility” to deal with some of Monfort’s chronic health issues, he said.
More than 500 inmates are currently serving life sentences and 139 inmates use wheelchairs, he said, noting Monfort’s sentence and medical issues “are not an unusual situation for us.”
At a minimum, Monfort will spend the first five years of his sentence in what is known as “close custody,” which falls between maximum- and medium-security levels, Sinclair explained. He will be in the general population but will likely be assigned to a single-man cell due to his disabilities, Sinclair said.
Though Monfort has been the subject of extensive media coverage, Sinclair doubts Monfort will have any kind of notoriety in prison.
“His crime, as horrific as it was, is not really a standout among the offender population,” he said.