Seattle Police Department officers shot a man they believe to be responsible for Brenton's death.
While a massive memorial service for slain Officer Timothy Brenton neared its finish at KeyArena on Friday afternoon, fellow officers with the Seattle Police Department shot a man they believe to be responsible for Brenton’s death.
The shooting occurred in Tukwila around 3 p.m., shortly before the memorial service concluded.
The suspect, 41, was shot in the head and taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to Interim Seattle Police Chief John Diaz. The man was upgraded from critical to serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said this morning.
Sources say the man is Christopher John Monfort — a man who has lived in Alaska, California and Washington, compiling an enigmatic history, described by some as reserved, others as outgoing. Monfort’s past includes employment as a security guard.
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He apparently has no felony history.
In recent years he has been a student — first at Highline Community College in Des Moines, then at the University of Washington, where he was enrolled in a program aimed at helping minority students go on to graduate work.
Law-enforcement sources said Monfort also is suspected of the Oct. 22 bombing and arson of a Seattle maintenance yard, where three police cars and an RV used as a mobile precinct were damaged.
Before Monfort was identified, police found distinct evidence that leads them to believe the same person was involved in that crime and the Brenton shooting, sources said.
A note threatening to kill police officers was left at the bombing site, according to sources. One source described the note as containing a general threat against police officers.
News reports at the time said fliers were left at the maintenance yard referring to an anti-police-brutality rally and citing the case of a King County sheriff’s deputy accused of assaulting a teenage girl in a SeaTac holding cell.
Early Friday, Seattle and Tukwila police went to an apartment complex in the 13700 block of 56th Avenue South after receiving a tip about a car matching the description of the early 1980s Datsun 210 coupe seen near the site where Brenton was slain, said a source close to the investigation.
Police found a Datsun, draped with a car cover. They waited until a man approached the vehicle, said Tukwila police spokesman Mike Murphy.
King County sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart said three detectives confronted the man in the complex’s parking lot and asked to speak with him. The man ran away, bolting up an exterior staircase where he turned, pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the officers.
“For some reason, it didn’t go off,” said Urquhart.
The man then turned and ran again, with the detectives in close pursuit.
“They caught up to him after a relatively short distance, whereupon this individual turned again, presented the gun and was shot by the detectives,” Urquhart said.
Police have since detained two other men, one at a bus stop near the apartment complex and another in Federal Way. The men may have ties to the wounded man and the apartment, a source said.
Monfort recently had been laid off from his job as a security guard, according to a source.
A Ford Crown Victoria sedan, a car often used as a police cruiser, was found parked near the covered Datsun. Investigators are looking into whether Monfort owned that car as well.
The person who tipped police to the Datsun said the man only recently had covered it and had been acting bizarrely, according to a law enforcement source.
Monfort received a bachelor’s degree from the UW in March 2008, according to the university’s degree-validation Web site. His major was in Law, Societies and Justice.
Last year, Monfort belonged to the McNair Scholars Program, part of the university’s office of Minority Affairs and Diversity. The program aims to steep undergraduate students in sophisticated research, preparing them for graduate work.
Monfort provided this title for his project with the McNair program: “The Power of Citizenship Your Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About: How to Change the Inequity of the Criminal Justice System Immediately, Through Active Citizen Nullification of Laws, As a Juror.”
In an abstract of his project, Monfort said he planned to “illuminate and further” the scholarship of Paul Butler, a law professor at George Washington University. Butler is a proponent of jury nullification, a controversial principle whereby jurors feel free to disregard a judge’s instructions and acquit a defendant no matter the strength of the evidence.
Butler has argued that such nullification may be particularly appropriate in cases where black defendants are charged with nonviolent crimes.
“It is the moral responsibility of black jurors to emancipate some guilty black outlaws,” Butler wrote in a 1995 Yale Law Journal article, adding: “My goal is the subversion of American criminal justice, at least as it now exists.”
In a McNair program newsletter, Monfort said he had previously been a student at Highline Community College, where he was “inspired” by Garry Wegner, who was the school’s program coordinator for the Administration of Justice program.
Wegner said Friday that Monfort fared poorly the first time he attended the college. But he later returned to the Des Moines school and “caught fire academically.”
“He did very, very well interacting with the other students in my class,” said Wegner, who spent 20 years as the deputy director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, the organization that trains many of the state’s law enforcement officers.
“He always seemed to be a natural leader, and people would gravitate to him. He put in a lot of work and did well academically. He said it was because he finally found something that interested him — the field of criminal justice.”
Wegner, who described Monfort as “a mature, stable individual,” said he was shocked to hear that his former student is the suspect in Brenton’s slaying.
“You’ve shaken me to my toes,” he told a Times reporter. “He’s one of those people you thought would make a difference, a positive, constructive difference.”
Monfort planned eventually to attend law school, Wegner said.
“I think he thought it was a position for anyone who wanted to be a catalyst for change,” Wegner said.
During his last year at Highline, Monfort became involved in student government and was elected vice president of legislation, Wegner said.
The Oct. 23, 2003, edition of a Highline publication, The Thunderword, describes how Monfort ran for the school’s student senate and spoke at a candidates’ forum.
“Too often, too many of us walk around with our head in the clouds,” Monfort said at the forum, according to the article.
The article said Monfort “believes he is unique, because he is upset about our current state of government and actually wants to do something about it. … The student body has been cheated and lied to by the Bush Administration, said Monfort. He plans on putting together a petition to bring our soldiers home.”
The article quoted Monfort saying: “Our freedom is under attack.”
After Monfort left Highline, he stayed in touch with Wegner. The two men last spoke five or six months ago. At the time, Monfort was “driving truck” and volunteering at the Youth Services Center, teaching incarcerated youth about the criminal justice system.
“He was volunteering his Fridays down at juvy hall, trying to get kids on the straight and narrow,” Wegner said. “He wanted to try and get them out of the system before they became adults.”
“I don’t get this”
Vicki Malone is a business partner of Monfort’s mother, Suzan, who operates a Curves fitness center in Bethel, Alaska. “I know Chris very well and this just doesn’t sound like him,” Malone said. “They need to sort this out and figure out if he had anything to do with it. Chris is half black. And I don’t know what happened here. But it sounds like people were running all over the place. I just really wonder if this was not a huge mistake.
“You don’t see people that commit real violent crimes that have never been caught for anything.”
She said Monfort was always worried about being targeted because of his race. “He was careful, he believed it was possible, so if he turned and ran that was easily what it was.”
She said as a longtime family friend she was mystified that Monfort could be considered a suspect.
“I don’t get this. People that run around and kill cops have tons and tons of other stuff in their record, and Chris had no gang stuff, I know that.”
She said Monfort was an only child and had not married. She did not know anything about his father. “That was a long time ago.”
She said she has given the news of the shooting to Monfort’s mother, who was headed to Seattle. “She needs to find out if he is dead or alive. This was her only child.”
Monfort also spent time in California in the late 1990s. Rosemary Stevens, of Pasadena, said she rented a room to Monfort in 1991-92.
“I didn’t know him well,” she said. “He was not outgoing.”
Stevens remembered that Monfort worked as a waiter at a restaurant called Charlie Brown’s, but said he wanted to be a police officer and owned a motorcycle.
During the year Monfort lived with her, Stevens said, he never had any visitors.
Many officers attending the memorial service for Brenton at KeyArena on Friday left upon getting word of the shooting, some rushing to Tukwila.
Diaz, who was still at KeyArena, said he had briefed Brenton’s family about the shooting. He described them as “hopeful.”
An 83-year-old neighbor of Monfort’s described the apartment complex as quiet and home to many low-income residents.
Police had been looking for the Datsun 210 coupe, which had driven by Brenton and Officer Britt Sweeney’s patrol car at 9:46 p.m. Saturday while they were on a traffic stop. An image of the vehicle was captured by the cruiser’s dash camera.
Twenty minutes later, while the officers were parked at 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way, a car drove alongside and unleashed a fusillade of rifle fire into the patrol car. Brenton was killed instantly and Sweeney, who sensed danger and ducked, was grazed.
Staff reporters Mike Carter, Jennifer Sullivan, Steve Miletich, Sara Jean Green, Lynda V. Mapes, Sanjay Bhatt, Nancy Bartley, Charles E. Brown and Ken Armstrong and news researchers David Turim and Gene Balk contributed to this report.