Seattle police are devoting all of their energies in the search for suspects in Saturday's fatal drive-by shooting of a police officer who was seated with another officer in a patrol car parked near the intersection of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way.
Seattle police are devoting all of their energies in the search for suspects in Saturday’s fatal drive-by shooting of a police officer who was seated with another officer in a patrol car parked near the intersection of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday afternoon, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel called the slaying of Officer Timothy Brenton an assassination. Britt Sweeney, a student officer who was with Brenton, was wounded in the shooting.
“All resources will be used, no matter what it takes, to bring these people to justice,” Interim Police Chief John Diaz said during the news conference.
Police have not identified any suspects.
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Brenton, 39, a field-training officer, lived in Marysville. He was married with two young children, a boy and a girl, said the slain officer’s uncle, Jon Brenton, 50, of Kingston. He had been with the department nearly nine years.
“Everybody loved him,” the uncle said. “I don’t think there was any reason anybody would come after him.”
The slain officer’s father and another uncle are retired Seattle police officers, Brenton said.
Timothy Brenton and Sweeney were parked shortly after 10 p.m. in the 100 block of 29th Avenue, with Sweeney in the driver’s seat. A small, light-colored sedan pulled up next to their car and someone fired multiple shots at the officers, police said.
Sweeney, sensing danger just before the shots were fired, managed to yell and duck down, police said. The bullets came in through the window on the driver’s side and Brenton was struck multiple times, police said. He died immediately.
Sweeney was able to get out of the police car and fire several shots at the sedan as it fled, police said. She also called for additional officers.
Police said they aren’t sure whether the car was struck by the officer’s gunfire. The car was described as a white or light blue Toyota.
Sweeney was treated for minor injuries, including a bullet wound to her back, at Harborview Medical Center. Pugel said the officer was resting at home.
Law enforcement sources say Sweeney, 33, has been out of the police academy and in field training for about a month.
Investigators tentatively have concluded that a rifle was fired at the officers, according to a Seattle police source briefed on the matter.
The shooting was a “flat-out … execution,” the source said.
Brenton and Sweeney were discussing a traffic stop they had just completed when they were surprised by the gunfire, another law enforcement source said. The traffic stop does not appear to have anything to do with the shooting, the source said.
During this afternoon’s news conference, an emotional Diaz said the officers were “attacked in a despicable and cowardly fashion.”
Kent Holt, 28, was attending a Halloween party near the shooting scene and was outside on the deck of a multiplex when he heard “at least 10” gunshots. He said he thought it was fireworks until the street flooded with police cars a short time later.
Investigators have questioned one man in connection with the shooting, but at this point police are only calling him a “person of interest.”
That man had been booked into the King County Jail on Friday for threatening police, but was released on bail Saturday. Police questioned him shortly after the shooting and rearrested him for investigation of obstruction, according to a law enforcement source.
Details of the obstruction allegation haven’t been released by police or officials with the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Sources said this morning that it’s unclear whether the man was even in the area of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way when the shooting occurred.
Jon Brenton, the slain officer’s uncle, said he learned of the shooting in a telephone call about 2:30 a.m. Sunday from Brenton’s father, Boyd Brenton, of La Conner.
“He was not doing very well last night when I talked to him,” Jon Brenton said.
“He was pretty broken,” Brenton added. “It was kind of unbelievable to him. It was just kind of a dream.”
Brenton said it was sad to think that his brothers survived police careers and that his nephew didn’t.
“It’s a pretty bad deal,” said Brenton, noting that he didn’t go into law enforcement because his brothers talked him out of it.
Timothy Brenton always had a smile, a great sense of humor and was a “outstanding, honest” man, the uncle said.
“It’s a huge loss to everybody,” he said.
Pugel said there had been no threats made against Brenton.
A makeshift memorial has been set up at the scene of the shooting with a growing number of bouquets and candles. People stopped by this morning by to pay their respects, some with tears in their eyes.
“It is so senseless” said one man, who explained he came from Beacon Hill.
A friend and colleague of the slain officer said the officer had also worked as a patrolman and on the East Precinct Anti-Crime team.
“I always knew him as a positive, upbeat and smile-on-your-face type of guy,” said the friend, who asked that his name not be published. “He wasn’t the kind of guy who brought drama with him.”
A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy was parked outside the slain officer’s Marysville home this afternoon. He said the family did not wish to comment.
A neighbor, Mark Flanders, described the Brentons as “just a regular American family; going to work, making a living.” He said Brenton was a “quiet family man.”
Flanders said Brenton and his wife, a nurse, have two children in elementary school. Police said the children are 11 and 8.
“It’s pretty shocking,” Flanders said of the shooting.
Prior to joining the Seattle Police Department in December 2000, Brenton was an officer with La Conner police in Skagit County.
The last Seattle police officer to die in the line of duty was Joselito “Lito” Barber, 26, who was killed Aug,. 13, 2006, when an SUV driven by Mary Rivas ran a red light and struck his patrol car. Rivas was sentenced to 20 years in prison for vehicular homicide and possession of cocaine in November 2007.
The last Seattle officer to be gunned down was Antonio Terry, 36, who was fatally shot on June 4, 1994, when he stopped to help two men, Quentin Ervin and Eric Smiley, whose vehicle had broken down on an Interstate 5 offramp. Smiley was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Ervin was also convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Authorities never determined who actually pulled the trigger.
In Seattle, student officers are paired with field training officers in a “job shadow-type role,” said police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. Student officers generally work in field training for about three and a half months.
“They are deployed throughout the city in different precincts with veteran officers who have been specifically selected for their mentoring and training abilities,” Whitcomb said, declining to comment directly on the female officer wounded in the shooting. “[Field-training officers] instruct, guide and evaluate student officers as they learn the ins and outs of urban police work.”
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or email@example.com
Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Carter and news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report