A bandanna with the stars and stripes of an American flag was found in the middle of the 29th Avenue, several feet north of the spot where Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton was fatally shot while seated in his patrol car on Halloween night 2009, a crime-scene investigator testified on Wednesday.
At the time, Seattle police Sgt. Brian Stampfl, a member of the department’s crime-scene investigations (CSI) unit, didn’t know whether the bandanna was a relevant piece of evidence or if it had fallen off a trick-or-treater’s costume.
“While we were there working … we could see it in the street,” Stampfl told the jury hearing testimony in the aggravated murder trial of accused gunman Christopher Monfort. “It was clean, new-looking. We didn’t recognize it as being relevant to anything … (but) we said let’s just take it with us. So we did, not knowing the relevance at the time.”
Though the jury has yet to hear testimony from forensic scientists from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, the bandanna Stampfl retrieved from the asphalt in Leschi would end up being a significant find.
Stampfl also testified about bullet casings and fragments found at the scene and described the massive injuries sustained by Brenton. The jury was also shown the shirt and police vest worn by then-rookie Officer Britt Sweeney, who was being trained by Brenton, 39, the night he was killed. A six-inch tear in Sweeney’s shirt, and a shorter one in her vest, presumably came as she ducked the bullets that struck Brenton. The jury has previously heard that Sweeney was able to return fire at the gunman’s fleeing vehicle and call for help on her police radio.
Monfort is charged with five felonies, including aggravated first-degree murder, the only crime for which death is a possible penalty. He is also charged with arson and attempted first-degree murder for allegedly setting a fire and detonating pipe bombs that destroyed police vehicles at a city maintenance yard on Oct. 22, 2009, a little over a week before Brenton was killed in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood. Monfort has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
On Nov. 6, 2009, a public memorial for Brenton was held at Key Arena. That morning, detectives investigating Brenton’s homicide learned DNA recovered from the bandanna at the homicide crime scene matched DNA found on an American flag that had been plunged into the roof of a patrol car at the maintenance yard, court records show. It also matched DNA found on the lid of a sports-drink bottle that had been filled with gasoline and duct-taped to a pipe bomb and propane canister at the arson scene.
The discovery of matching DNA was the first definitive evidence that Brenton’s homicide and the Charles Street arson were connected.
Later that same afternoon, detectives went to Monfort’s Tukwila apartment after receiving a tip that a tenant living there had a Datsun 210 that had been recently covered. Police had been systematically contacting owners of 1980s Datsuns, the kind of vehicle seen in video captured by Brenton’s in-car camera.
Monfort allegedly pointed a gun at one of the detectives and pulled the trigger, but his weapon failed to fire because he hadn’t chambered a round. According to court documents, Monfort pointed a gun at three detectives as he made a run for his apartment, and each officer fired off two quick shots. He was struck twice, in the face and stomach, and paralyzed below the waist.
The assault rifle used to kill Brenton and other evidence tying Monfort to the Charles Street arson was later recovered from his apartment, the records say.