November 13, 2009 in City

Suspect charged in officer’s death

Tukwila man planned ‘armed stand’ with cops, prosecutor says
Gene Johnson Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Seattle police Capt. Jim Dermody Sr., Deputy Prosecutor John Castleton and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mark Larson, hear that Christopher Monfort will be charged with aggravated first-degree murder.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Christopher Monfort waged a “one-man war” against law enforcement starting with the firebombing of four police vehicles and continuing even after the fatal shooting of a Seattle officer on Halloween, a prosecutor said Thursday in charging him with a crime that could bring the death penalty.

“This case is unique in that Monfort deliberately planned to confront police and kill as many officers as he could,” King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg said. “He was planning to make a final armed stand should he be discovered.”

Satterberg charged Monfort, 41, with aggravated first-degree murder in the death of Officer Timothy Brenton as Brenton sat in his cruiser discussing a traffic stop with a trainee named Britt Sweeney, who was grazed by a bullet.

The crime is punishable by life without release or execution. Satterberg has 30 days from Monfort’s arraignment to decide whether to seek the death penalty, but such decisions are typically delayed to give defense attorneys more time to prepare.

Monfort was charged with one count of arson and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. The latter charges stem from the wounding of Sweeney, an alleged attempt to kill officers during the arson nine days earlier, and attempts to shoot police who approached him outside his apartment in suburban Tukwila last week.

Monfort ran from the sergeant and two other homicide detectives, then produced a handgun, which clicked but didn’t fire when he pulled the trigger, Satterberg said. The gun was loaded, but Monfort had neglected to put a round in the chamber, Satterberg said.

“This oversight saved the life of the police officer, who was only a few feet away,” he said.

Monfort made a desperate dash for his apartment door and the detectives fired, striking him in the cheek and the stomach, the prosecutor said. He remains at Harborview Medical Center in satisfactory condition and is expected to recover. One of Monfort’s lawyers, Julie Lawry, said she has been to the hospital to see him but declined to comment further.

Inside Monfort’s apartment, police said they found a terrifying arsenal: three rifles, including the one used to kill Brenton, and a pistol-grip shotgun, as well as several bombs consisting of propane bottles wrapped with duct tape, nails protruding. Some had very short fuses, indicating Monfort could light them and throw them at police, and another had a fuse sitting on the heating element of his kitchen stove, authorities said.

Stacks of automobile tires in the apartment could have provided a bunker in a shootout.

No clear motive has emerged, but Satterberg said that Monfort left fliers discussing police brutality when the police vehicles were bombed at a maintenance yard Oct. 22, some of which referred to “these deaths” – as though the bombing was expected to kill officers.

A fire in a mobile command center at the yard was set first, and bombs underneath cruisers went off nine minutes later, as police and emergency officers responded.

Stuck through the roof of one cruiser in the yard was a large hunting knife, a small American flag attached to the handle. Police have said the flag bore Monfort’s DNA, as did an American flag bandanna left behind when Brenton was killed.

Monfort studied criminal justice at Highline Community College and the University of Washington, and police believe he had recently been fired from a job as a security guard.

Monfort’s arraignment is set for Nov. 24, but will be delayed if he remains in the hospital.

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