$85,000 offered in hunt for officer's killer

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by KING 5 News and KING5.com Staff

KING5.com

Posted on November 3, 2009 at 9:26 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 3 at 11:52 PM

SEATTLE –  The Seattle Police Department is now offering a $85,000 reward in the manhunt for whoever gunned down Seattle Police Officer Tim Brenton Saturday night - an amount that could hit six figures.

One anonymous donor is pledging $10,000 to the cause. While that is comforting, tensions are still high among Seattle Police.

They say finding Brenton's killer is their number one priority right now. And not having a suspect in custody yet is extremely difficult for their young and mourning department.

"For a lot of our officers, this is the first time they've had to deal with one of their own being killed in the line of duty like this," said Asst. Chief Nick Metz.

As a community mourns the murder of a person dedicated to protecting them, Seattle Police are hoping donated electronic billboards will help shake loose important tips about who killed Officer Brenton.

They admit it's unusual in a case of officer murder to not have a suspect in custody within the first 24 hours.

"This is a difficult one for us, I mean not being able to have the ideal kind of information we need to get that suspect in immediate custody, this is the highest priority for the department," said Metz.

Investigators now believe the assassination of Officer Brenton was well planned, although they continue to work on the theory that he and his partner officer Britt Sweeney were random targets.

Transcripts of her radio calls for help moments after the suspect pinned in their cruiser and fired are now posted on the web site Seattlecrime.com.

Officer Sweeney: Shots fired, 29th and Yesler!

Dispatcher: Is there a unit calling radio?

The computer locates Unit 3 George 13. In seconds the computer pinpoints the unit.

Sweeney: Help. Shots fired [sobs]

Sweeney: My partner's dead.

Thirty-seven seconds after the first call, Officer Sweeney, now sobbing says "Help. Shots fired."

Five seconds later she says "My partner's dead."

Police believe murder was planned

Investigators believe the gunman approached Brenton and rookie officer Britt Sweeney as they sat discussing a traffic stop at 29th Avenue South and East Yesler Way. The gunmen drove close enough to the police cruiser so that Sweeney, who was in the driver's seat, couldn't open her door before ducking down as the gunman opened fire. The killer then backed up, made a three-point turn and headed north up 29th.

Sources in the Seattle Police Department tell KING 5 they believe the driver backed away so that the car could not be captured by the cruiser's dashboard camera.

The bullet grazed Sweeney's back.

Chief John Diaz was emotional when addressing the Seattle City Council Monday, saying the killer apparently picked the pair at random and waited for the perfect time to strike.

"It looks like the individuals watched the stop happen and waited until that person had left and then came up to the vehicle," said Diaz.

Detectives have pulled video cameras from all pertinent police cars and from nearby businesses. Seattle police brass are also planning to deploy SWAT teams to backup their officers up on the streets. They're advising all other agencies in the area to do the same, implying that, until the killer is caught, no cops are safe.

"This terrible murder wasn't even an incident, it wasn't a call. It was 2 human beings sitting in a patrol car doing their job," said Asst. Chief Jim Pugel.

One man was detained by police after making what are described as veiled threats to police officers.

Seattle police are investigating whether the shooting is connected to the Oct. 22 arson of four police vehicles.

Officer Brenton is survived by his wife Lisa, his 11-year-old daughter and his 8-year-old son.

Officer Britt Sweeney is also known for having a gift for working well with people. She was a personal trainer at Denali Fitness before she decided to become a cop.

"She seems to always know what she's doing," says Denali Fitness Owner Michelle Croom. "She's a very steady person. She's a great personal trainer, she knew her clients well and had a good instinct for people."

Her friends believe that instinct, along with her strength and athleticism, may have saved her life Saturday night.

"When I heard the way she reacted and responded, not only was I proud and saddened, but it wasn't shocking to me," says friend Don O'Neil. "Because we all know she's anincredible athlete."

O'Neill is a co-host of KIRO Radio's "Ron and Don Show." He took spin classes from Britt Sweeney when she was an instructor. Today on the air, he encouraged witnesses to come forward, as listeners sounded off on the shooting.

"The person who did this, with the assistance of whoever was driving, is the most evil that you've got," says one listener who called in.

"She left a voice mail today," says O'Neill. "And you can tell that she's shaken up."

You can call Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound to report any tips anonymously and to qualify for the current $85,000 reward at 800-222-TIPS.

The Seattle Police tipline is 206-233-5000.

The memorial service for Officer Brenton is scheduled for Friday, November 6 at 1 p.m. at the KeyArena.

A fund has been established for the family of Officer Brenton. Donations may be made at any Bank of America branch under the "Brenton Family Assistance Fund."

Cards to the family or Seattle Police Dept. and donations for the family may be sent to:

Family of Officer Timothy Brenton
c/o Seattle Police Department
1519 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122-3907

On Tuesday, the family of Officer Brenton released the following statement:

"The family of Officer Tim Brenton would like to thank the community for the tremendous outpouring of support. Even with the tragic loss, Tim's wife and children are finding solace in the support from the police community, their friends and family, and the community as a whole. We know that Tim would be honored and humbled by the limitless support that has been provided at the difficult time. We sincerely thank you for the generous emotional support, thoughts, and prayers."

KING 5's Eric Wilkinson, Elisa Hahn Deborah Feldman contributed to this report.

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