Police again see themselves as targets
The slayings of four Lakewood police officers Sunday came just as police across the region were starting to refocus and regain some sense of normalcy after the ambush killing of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton a month ago.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Coverage from the days following the Lakewood shootings
The slayings of four Lakewood police officers Sunday came just as police across the region were starting to refocus and regain some sense of normalcy after the ambush killing of a Seattle officer a month ago.
Seattle Assistant Police Chief Nick Metz said laughter and a sense of routine had returned to police headquarters in recent days, something that had been missing in the weeks after Officer Timothy Brenton was slain and his partner wounded on Halloween night.
But with four more officers killed in Lakewood — believed to be the highest number of police deaths in a single act in state history — law-enforcement officers and their families again are reminded that their badges can be viewed by some as targets.
"My first thought was, 'Oh, my God, it's too close to the Brenton situation,' " Port of Seattle Police Chief Colleen Wilson said. "We're going to put people through all of that stress again."
Brenton, 39, and rookie Officer Britt Sweeney were seated in their patrol car in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood Oct. 31 when another vehicle pulled up next to them and someone opened fire. Brenton was killed immediately, and Sweeney suffered minor injuries.
Police shot and arrested Christopher John Monfort outside his Tukwila apartment six days after the attack. Monfort, 41, has been charged with aggravated murder and numerous other charges.
King County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart and other law-enforcement officials say the most disturbing thing is that Brenton and the Lakewood officers were wrapped up in routine elements of their jobs: doing paperwork, grabbing a cup of coffee and talking with fellow officers.
Authorities say the slain officers were not targeted individually but attacked because they were police.
"This is not about responding to a robbery, a D.V. [domestic-violence] call, or any other call we consider dangerous. These are four people having coffee on a Sunday morning at 8 a.m.," Urquhart said of Sunday's shootings. "It could have been anybody."
Mountlake Terrace Assistant Police Chief Pete Caw said he plans to hold a debriefing this morning to remind his officers of the importance of "never letting your guard down" and focusing on safety even in public places.
"Guys were gathering at coffee and having a social moment together, and this thing walks in from the front door. It's just terrible," Caw said.
Wilson likened Sunday's shootings and Brenton's slaying to a type of "racial killing" based on prejudice.
"They're a bias that solely because of the uniform you are wearing you are being attacked. It's not what we do, but it's who we are," said Wilson, who also served as police chief in Monroe and Sumner. "Short of losing one of my children, I couldn't imagine a pain more difficult than losing one of the officers I'm charged with taking care of."
Urquhart called the five officer slayings "an assault on society."
"We stand between guys like this and the rest of society," he said. "When we are attacked like this, like Timothy Brenton was and these four law-enforcement officers were, this is an attack on everybody."
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org