11/10/2009

DNA and bullets link suspect to Seattle officer's death

By Gene Johnson
Associated Press

SEATTLE — DNA and ballistics tests link a suspect shot by detectives last week to the Halloween slaying of a Seattle police officer as well as an attempted hit on law enforcement nine days earlier, investigators said Monday.

Seattle Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said DNA belonging to 41-year-old Christopher Monfort was found on an American-flag-style bandanna on the ground where Officer Timothy Brenton was shot and killed and officer-trainee Britt Sweeney was wounded, and the .223 rifle used in the attack was found in Monfort's apartment.

In addition, investigators found Monfort's DNA on a small flag found at a city maintenance yard where four police vehicles were firebombed on Oct. 22, Pugel said.

That attack is now being described as an attempted assassination: A fire in a mobile command post was set first, apparently to attract officers, and after they arrived, the cruisers exploded. Two officers who responded almost parked next to the cruisers that exploded, but instead drove to a different part of the maintenance yard looking for the culprit.

"They would have been killed or seriously maimed," Pugel said. "He meant to kill someone then."

A public defender working on Monfort's case, Julie Lawry, did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment. She told The Seattle Times she had thus far not been allowed to see Monfort, who remains in Harborview Medical Center after being shot by police during his arrest Friday.

Monfort was taken out of intensive care Monday afternoon. He is in satisfactory condition and can respond to questions, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said.

Brenton and Sweeney were shot as they sat in their cruiser on Halloween night in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood, discussing a traffic stop they had just made. Sweeney was able to return fire and hit the suspect's vehicle as it drove away, Pugel said.

Investigators began to focus on Monfort after receiving a tip from a neighbor of his at a Tukwila apartment complex. Monfort had been acting strangely since the shooting, the neighbor reported, and he had placed a tarp over his old Datsun - a car that matched the one police were looking for.

When detectives tried to question Monfort on Friday, he drew a handgun and clicked the trigger - but nothing happened, Pugel said.

Monfort took off running, and detectives briefly lost him before seeing him again at the top of a stairway near his apartment. They shot him when he raised his gun again, Pugel said.

No motive for the shooting has emerged. Based on conversations with neighbors, police believe Monfort had recently been fired from his job as a security guard, but they aren't sure where he worked. He had previously studied law enforcement and justice at Highline Community College and the University of Washington. Monfort had previously expressed concern about police brutality, Pugel said.

Police released photos Monday of the .223 rifle as well as bombs found in Monfort's apartment. The bombs consisted of small propane tanks duct-taped together, with nails and other shrapnel protruding. The fuse to one such bomb rested on the heating element of his kitchen stove in one photo; it would have exploded if he had turned the burner on, Pugel said.

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