Officers Upset About Lack of Warning From Department Following Bombing, Threat

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee November 7, 2009

Originally posted Saturday

In the moments following the shooting and arrest of a man suspected in the murder of Officer Timothy Brenton, Seattle police officers were ecstatic that the case had seemingly been brought to a close.  One female officer cheered "Wooohooo!" over police radio. Others chimed in, asking about the condition of the suspect—who police have identified as Christopher J. Monfort of Tukwila—clearly relieved that the man who allegedly gunned down a fellow officer in cold blood was off the streets.

But a day after the arrest, there's already tension amongst the rank-and- file at SPD who have expressed frustration with the department for not sharing enough information about threats made against officers following the bombing of several police vehicles at a city maintenance facility in the International District, which police have since called a "domestic terrorist event."

According to law enforcement sources, a threatening note left at the site of a bombing at the Charles Street vehicle service center near I-5—which destroyed three police patrol cars and a mobile command unit—on October 22nd said that an officer would be killed. Although the attack was fairly sophisticated—sources say pipe bombs were used to destroy the three vehicles—the threat was not specific to any officer.

One officer says police could have been more aware of their surroundings and handled themselves differently while police investigated the case. “They should have released the information,” one officer says. After receiving any sort of warning of possible danger, the officer says, "You don’t go on routine traffic stops [and] you don’t pull over on the side of the road."

The Seattle Police Officers Guild was not immediately available for comment on officer complaints.

It appears that last week, department heads received complaints from officers upset about the department's decision to not release certain details of its investigation into the bombing. However, SPD Director John Hayes says that the department sent information out to officers over email and in daily briefings reinforcing police tactics and observation techniques—including maintaining a 300 foot distance from any potential explosives—and warning officers to not rush in to any situations where they could be endangered. Still, the department did not explicitly warn officers about the note—which police describe as a "general threat"—left at the site of a sophisticated bombing at the city's Charles Street facility.

When asked whether the department was negligent in not releasing more information to officers following the bombing—which the department has since connected to Officer Brenton's murder—Chief Pugel dismissed the notion that SPD had any obligation to warn officers of possible danger following a fairly sophisticated attack. "Once we had the homicide of Officer Brenton, we clearly warned officers to pay attention, to be diligent," he says. Prior to that, Pugel says, "there was nothing that led us to believe, until...the night of Officer Brenton's homicide, that it could be connected." Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb also added that having someone break into a secure government facility should have been a "specific enough" incident to put officers on alert.

Ultimately, however, one question remains: was Officer Brenton's death preventable? "You never know," one law enforcement source says. "At least he would have had that heightened sense [of danger]."

Filed under
Show Comments