A veteran Seattle police officer paused to compose himself and wipe away tears Tuesday morning as he recounted seeing the massive wounds that Officer Tim Brenton sustained in a fatal ambush on Halloween night 2009.
Like Brenton, Sgt. George Davisson was training a rookie officer the night when Brenton’s trainee, Officer Britt Sweeney, broadcast over the police radio just after 10 p.m.:
“Shots fired. My partner is dead,” Sweeney said, her voice recorded by Davisson’s in-car video that was played for the King County jury on Tuesday morning. “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.
“I heard, ‘Officer down, shots fired.’ I thought I’d be going into a gun battle,” he said. But initially, he thought Sweeney had said her partner was down, not that he was dead.
The man accused of the shooting, Christopher Monfort, 46, is on trial on five felony charges, including aggravated first-degree murder, the only crime for which death is a possibly 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.
Though Davisson had been to numerous homicide and shooting scenes, he testified Tuesday that this was the first time he’d ever responded to such a call. He 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 department’s Anti-Crime Team unit for about eight months, Davisson 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 OK and 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 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 the scene. He told jurors he believes his supervisors asked him to drive the route that the King County Medical Examiner’s Office van would later take to Harborview Medical Center so that Davisson would not be present when Brenton’s body was removed from the patrol 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.
Witnesses last week testified about hearing gunshots and seeing a grayish car with a hatchback speed off.
After hearing two sets of shots, witness Janie Hendrix testified, “I heard a woman scream.” She testified that she couldn’t tell at the time the woman was a police officer, Sweeney.