Neighborhood project gives a home to memory of slain officer
Near the Leschi corner where the Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton was slain, the neighborhood's memorial project gives his family a place to leave him flowers and letters, and it gives the community an outlet for its anxieties.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Honoring Officer Timothy BrentonThe dedication of the memorial honoring Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton will be at 3 p.m. Sunday on the northwest corner of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way.
Traffic restrictions will be in effect between noon and 4 p.m. East Yesler Way will be closed between 28th and 29th avenues, and 29th Avenue will be closed between East Spruce and South Washington streets. There will be limited parking on Martin Luther King Jr. Way between East Alder and South Jackson streets.
Donations are still being accepted to help cover the memorial's long-term maintenance costs. Donations can be made through PayPal via e-mail to LeschiCC@gmail.com, or checks can be sent to Leschi Community Council, attention Officer Brenton Memorial, P.O. Box 22391, Seattle, WA 98122.
Lisa Brenton never knew if her husband would have to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but Halloween was the one holiday he almost always had off.
So last Halloween, when Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton announced he'd be working instead of taking his kids trick-or-treating, Lisa Brenton was mad. But their fight blew over quickly: He called home at 9:30 that night to apologize and tell her he loved her.
Roughly 37 minutes later, Brenton, 39, was killed and the rookie cop he was training was wounded when a car pulled alongside their police cruiser and the driver opened fire with a .223-caliber assault rifle on a quiet street in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood.
"You do the 'what ifs' ... What if I'd fought with him more? What if I'd stamped my feet and cried? But then, what if I'd yelled at him when he called at 9:30?" Lisa said earlier this week, seated in the living room of the Marysville home she shares with her daughter, Kayleigh, 12, and son, Quinn, 9.
As the anniversary of her husband's death approaches, Lisa is emotionally bracing for what will be her second visit to the northwest corner of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way where his life ended.
On Sunday afternoon, a black and blue granite memorial embedded in the sidewalk will be unveiled — a gift from a neighborhood traumatized by the shooting and determined to remember the man behind badge No. 6699.
Lisa, 38, hasn't been back to the neighborhood since taking flowers to the corner days after her husband's death. She'd intended to take her children there to mark the six-month anniversary, but said she "chickened out" at the last minute.
A friend took Kayleigh and Quinn instead, and they stood on cracked asphalt and read aloud letters they'd written to their father.
Lisa is grateful that people in Leschi stepped up to plan her husband's memorial so her children have a place where they can leave flowers and notes for their dad.
"We needed to do something there," but planning the project was beyond her, Lisa said. "I can barely figure out what's for dinner, let alone plan a memorial at this point."
After the memorial is unveiled, Lisa plans to take Kayleigh and Quinn trick-or-treating in Leschi, where residents have embraced the Brenton family.
Though her children have expressed "a certain amount of guilt" over their excitement for Halloween this year, Lisa said she told them: "It's about having a good time and it's a time to celebrate your father."
After the phone call from her husband last Halloween, Lisa went to bed. She awoke to the sound of knocking on her front door and figured it was teenagers looking to score some candy. She looked out the window and saw uniformed officers on her doorstep.
"When they came to the door, I thought car accident — Tim wrecked another car ... but never something like this kind of thing, ever," she recalled.
"It wasn't fair. He didn't die on a call, it was not a car wreck. It was so random and violent," Lisa said. "He didn't have a chance" to use his intellect or his training "to fight back somehow. There was just no time, none."
She thinks her husband, an East Precinct training officer, and Officer Britt Sweeney were targeted "because there were two people in the car," and the gunman was intent on doing as much damage as possible. "It was their dumb luck," she said.
Seven days after the shooting, thousands of police and firefighters crowded KeyArena for Brenton's public memorial service. As the ceremony was ending, then-Assistant Seattle Police Chief Nick Metz pulled Lisa into a small room and told her that Seattle detectives had just shot and wounded a man in Tukwila who was suspected of killing her husband.
Since then, Lisa has been in court for almost every one of suspect Christopher Monfort's hearings. King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg plans to seek the death penalty for Monfort, 41, who is charged with aggravated murder and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the Oct. 31 shootings.
Though Lisa is glad Monfort was arrested, she said, "It doesn't bring Tim back. ... It doesn't change anything."
Trouble upon trouble
To say the past year has been difficult for the family would be a gross understatement.
Quinn underwent surgery to correct congenital problems with both legs in February and spent months in casts. "He's growing too fast — Tim had the same problem" with tight heel cords, Lisa said.
After her father's death, Kayleigh was given a horse named Joey and spent hours riding, grooming and talking to him, her mother said. When Joey suddenly died over the summer from a ruptured diaphragm, Kayleigh was heartbroken.
"It's been horrible, but everybody knows that. It's a given," said Lisa, a trauma nurse at an Arlington hospital. "I can't tell you how many people have picked me up when I've fallen. I'm finally at a point where I do see a light, I do see a future. ... I've kind of accepted that this will be my new life."
But despite the outpouring of support the family has received — from Brenton's police colleagues, relatives, family friends and strangers — Lisa said she doubts she'll ever recover from the loss of her husband.
"I know I'll never heal from it, the kids will never heal," she said. "We'll live through this. But it will always be there."
Answer to anxieties
Inspired by the black mourning bands police wear across their badges when an officer is killed, Brenton's memorial features a police badge, carved from two pieces of Norwegian blue-pearl granite, that sits atop a strip of polished black granite from India. Radiating out from the badge, words chosen by the Brenton family to describe him — like "brave" and "compassionate" — are engraved on slats of flame-finished granite from China.
"I think of the words on the slats as a foundation that support the shield. Those words kind of made him the police officer he was," said Robert Cipollone, an interior designer who lives down the street from where Brenton died and who helped spearhead the memorial project.
For the neighborhood, coming together to organize a memorial for Brenton was a way to channel grief and helplessness into something positive, said Cipollone, one of four members of the neighborhood's memorial committee.
Early on, Ferguson Construction offered to foot the entire $25,000 bill for the memorial, but neighbors turned the offer down. They wanted the memorial to be a grass-roots-community effort in which "anybody who wanted to be part of this could be," Cipollone said.
Neighborhood businesses joined the effort, and Quiring Monuments, a Seattle company, donated 1,200 pounds of granite and the labor to install the monument. Seattle police and firefighters donated $8,200, but roughly 20 percent of the money came from neighbors living within six blocks of the shooting scene, Cipollone said.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Cipollone said, the neighborhood was gripped by fear and anxiety. For more than a week, it felt like being under siege: Hundreds of people poured into the area to drop off flowers and cards, officers kept a 24-hour-a-day vigil at the shooting scene and TV news crews set up for live broadcasts amid giant spotlights and the constant drone of a generator.
"There was no time to get away from it; there was no retreat," Cipollone recalled. "There's no way to explain it unless you experienced it — there was no place to go to feel safe."
Soon after the shooting, Cipollone and his partner, Bob Peyton, took fliers door to door, inviting neighbors — many of whom they'd never met — into their home. Two weeks after Brenton's slaying, about 35 people crowded into their living room. A week later, another 30 came to talk through their shock and shaken sense of security.
Those meetings, attended by neighbors who live within a roughly four-block area near the shooting scene, led to the idea of erecting a permanent marker at the spot where Brenton died.
"The fact he lost his life here won't be forgotten," Cipollone said.
Another place matters
In August 2009, two months before Brenton was killed, he and Lisa took their children to a lakeside resort off the North Cascades Highway that the family had visited every summer for the past eight years. During that trip, Lisa said, her husband told her he wanted his ashes scattered at the lake after he died.
"That August, we were at the lake and we had that talk. That discussion was meant to take place," she said this week.
Lisa returned to the resort with her children this past summer, but they weren't ready to let their father's ashes go, she said.
She said her children love telling stories about their dad and love hearing how much they resemble him.
"They're strong kids, and it's helped a lot that they see their dad is a hero," Lisa said. "Out of everybody in the world, those are the two people he loved the most."
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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