A veteran Seattle police officer became emotional Tuesday as he recounted seeing the massive wounds that Officer Timothy Brenton sustained in a fatal ambush on Halloween night 2009.
A veteran Seattle police officer paused to compose himself and wipe away tears Tuesday as he recounted seeing the massive wounds that Officer Timothy Brenton sustained in a fatal ambush on Halloween night 2009.
Sgt. George Davisson, like Brenton, was training a rookie officer the night when Brenton’s trainee, Officer Britt Sweeney, broadcast over the police radio just after 10:06 p.m.: “Shots fired. My partner is dead.”
Sweeney’s call was recorded by Davisson’s in-car video, which was played for the King County jury in the aggravated-murder case of accused gunman Christopher Monfort. “Help me,” she said, her voice a loud whisper.
Davisson and then-rookie Officer Chris Leyba, who had been parked at Garfield High School, sped to 29th Avenue and Yesler Way. Leyba was behind the wheel; Davisson grabbed his shotgun.
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“I heard, ‘Officer down, shots fired.’ I thought I’d be going into a gunbattle,” he said. But initially, he thought Sweeney had said her partner was down, not that he was dead.
Monfort, 46, is on trial on five felony charges, including aggravated first-degree murder, the only crime for which death is a possible penalty. Monfort — who was paralyzed below the waist after he was shot by detectives investigating Brenton’s killing — has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Davisson said he recognized Sweeney’s voice and knew she was with Brenton, a fellow officer he’d known since being assigned to the East Precinct. The two men had also been partners in the precinct’s Anti-Crime Team unit for about eight months, he said.
Arriving at the shooting scene, Davisson and Leyba ran to Sweeney, who was crouched behind a car in an apartment building’s parking lot, her gun drawn.
He said he asked her three quick questions: Are you OK? Where is the suspect? Where is your partner?
Sweeney responded she was OKand she’d last seen the gunman driving north. To the last question, Sweeney said, “He’s dead in the car,” Davisson testified.
As the most senior officer to be among the first on the scene, Davisson started directing other officers “to lock down the scene,” then he ran to Brenton’s patrol car.
“It was pretty horrific,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of homicides … but to see someone that you’ve worked with, someone you’ve shared beers with, is very different.”
Davisson described Brenton’s wounds, noting there was “a significant amount of blood.”
He paused before continuing. He said Brenton was still holding a coffee cup in his hand.
“It appeared he’d just been sitting there, sipping his coffee … and had taken rounds without knowing it was coming,” Davisson said.
Davisson testified he stayed with Brenton until, hours later, he was ordered to leave. He told jurors he believes his supervisors asked him to drive the route the King County Medical Examiner’s Office van would later take to Harborview Medical Center so Davisson would not be present when Brenton’s body was removed from the car.
The jury has previously heard that Brenton, 39, was training Sweeney, who ducked when gunshots were fired into the patrol car. Sweeney then returned fire at the gunman’s car as it sped off. Her shirt and police vest were torn by a bullet and she suffered a cut to the head but was otherwise uninjured, the jury has heard.
Before jurors filed back into court after lunch, defense attorney Todd Gruenhagen asked Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler to restrict witness testimony about Brenton’s injuries, saying some of the jurors had reacted emotionally to Davisson’s testimony — and that further descriptions would be prejudicial to Monfort.
“At some point it becomes cumulative,” Gruenhagen said, adding “the cause and means of death aren’t in dispute in this case.”
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird pointed out that Gruenhagen previously authored a defense motion to exclude all photos of Brenton after he’d been shot; the state submitted seven photos and the court ruled five of them could be admitted as evidence.
“Gruesome cases tend to elicit gruesome facts,” Kessler said.
The judge ruled a crime-scene investigations detective, the county’s medical examiner and Sweeney would be allowed to testify about Brenton’s injuries but barred further descriptions from officers who responded to the shooting scene. Sweeney could testify later this week.