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Originally published November 12, 2009 at 10:34 AM | Page modified November 12, 2009 at 8:31 PM

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Man charged with killing police officer is paralyzed

Christopher John Monfort, the 41-year-old man charged with aggravated murder in the Oct. 31 killing of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton, was left paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot in a confrontation with police last Friday, Monfort's family said today in a written statement.

Seattle Times staff reporters

Christopher John Monfort, the 41-year-old man charged with aggravated murder in the Oct. 31 killing of Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton, was left paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot in a confrontation with police last Friday, Monfort's family said today in a written statement.

Monfort's mother, Suzan Monfort, 65, of Bethel, Alaska, issued the statement hours after Monfort was charged with numerous criminal counts, including one that could result in the death penalty. She said she hasn't been allowed to see her son, who is recovering from gunshot wounds at Harborview Medical Center, but has been informed of his condition.

In announcing the charges during a news conference, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Christopher John Monfort waged a "one-man war" against the Seattle Police Department that began with the firebombing of several police vehicles on Oct. 22 and ended with the shooting death of Brenton.

The charges include aggravated first-degree murder, filed in the slaying of Brenton, who was fatally shot while sitting in a police cruiser with rookie officer Britt Sweeney, who was wounded. Satterberg called the shootings "coldblooded."

Prosecutors also charged Monfort with three counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly trying to kill Sweeney, pulling a handgun on Seattle police Sgt Gary Nelson and for trying to kill officers by firebombing police vehicles.

Monfort was also charged with one count of first-degree arson for the Oct. 22 firebombings at a city maintenance yard.

Aggravated first-degree murder is punishable by one of two sentences — life in prison without parole, or the death penalty. State law mandates that an aggravated murder charge can be sought only under specific circumstances — if the premeditated slaying happened during the commission of a rape, robbery, kidnapping or other high-level crime; if a suspect killed someone after escaping from prison; or if the victim was a police officer.

Under state law, once an aggravated murder charge is filed the prosecutor's office has 30 days from a suspect's arraignment to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Satterberg said the death penalty is reserved for "the worst of the worst offenders, the worst of the worst offenses." He quickly followed that by saying he believed Monfort fit within that category, perhaps hinting which direction his office is leaning.

Monfort targeted Seattle police "solely because of the badge they were wearing," Satterberg said.

"He had a plan to wage a personal war against the Seattle Police Department," Satterberg said of Monfort.

In today's statement, Suzan Monfort expressed her family's "sincere sympathies" for the families of Brenton and Sweeney, according to Christopher Monfort's attorney, Julie A. Lowry.

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"Chris Monfort's family, like any other family in the same position, is heartbroken for all parties and is struggling to understand this tragedy," read the statement. . "At the same time they love and stand by Chris and look forward to coming to a fuller understanding of recent events."

Monfort was shot and wounded Friday by Nelson and two other Seattle homicide detectives who showed up at his Tukwila apartment after the manager reported seeing a car parked there that matched the description of a vehicle seen on the night Brenton was killed.

When the detectives tried to talk to Monfort, he pointed a gun at Nelson and pulled the trigger, charging papers said. The gun "clicked" but didn't fire. Monfort ran up a stairwell toward his apartment and again pointed a handgun at the detectives again and was shot, police said.

Police said earlier this week the car — a Datsun 210 coupe — was registered to Monfort.

Monfort, who was wounded in the cheek and stomach, is in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center. Satterberg said he should recover to face the charges filed against him.

After he was shot, police searched Monfort and found a small book in his pocket that contained copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, according to court documents.

Monfort is also charged with the firebombings of four police vehicles at a Seattle city maintenance yard on South Charles Street on Oct. 22, nine days before the officer's slaying. Police said one fire bomb had been timed to go off as officers and firefighters responded in an attempt to inflict injuries or death.

Satterberg said the first bombs were set to lure officers and first firefighters.

"The intent was clearly to kill those officers and first responders," Satterberg said.

No one was injured at the yard.

A note, listing grievances over police brutality was taped to the window of a nearby vehicle, police said. It referenced "police funerals" in the past tense, which police take to mean that whoever found it was to have also discovered the bodies of officers who were supposed to have died in the blasts.

A "military-style" knife and the flag were also found at the scene. A bandanna with a flag printed on it was found near the shooting scene on Halloween night.

Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said earlier this week a search of Monfort's apartment has turned up a rifle that is "an identical ballistic match" to the .223-caliber weapon used to kill Brenton and wound Sweeney. Police also have matched DNA from Monfort to "signature" items left at the firebombing at a city maintenance yard and at the scene of the shooting — an American flag left at the arson scene and a flag-emblazoned bandanna found near Brenton's patrol car.

Satterberg called the investigation extraordinary and "some of the best police work this county has ever seen."

Brenton, 39, and Sweeney were seated in their parked patrol car on 29th Avenue, just north of East Yesler Way, shortly after 10 p.m. on Halloween when a car pulled up next to them and someone opened fire. Brenton was killed immediately and Sweeney suffered minor injuries.

Sweeney managed to get out of the patrol car, radio for help and return fire, striking the other car at least once.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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