Police: Gunman trailed patrol car before deadly shooting

Police: Gunman trailed patrol car before deadly shooting »Play Video
Photo from Seattle police car dash cam of suspicious car seen near the shooting of one of their officers.
SEATTLE -- The man who shot and killed a Seattle police officer on Halloween likely followed the officer for about 15 minutes before the shooting, according to new evidence revealed by investigators.

Police on Thursday said a dash cam inside Ofc. Timothy Brenton's patrol car snapped a photo of the car believed to be that of the gunman at 9:46 p.m. on Oct. 31 -- driving by the patrol car minutes before the shooting, which occurred just after 10 p.m.

Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said the photo, seen above, was taken while Brenton and his trainee, Ofc. Britt Sweeney, were at a traffic stop at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and East Jefferson.

The two were parked in their patrol car near 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way minutes later when another vehicle pulled up alongside and someone opened fire on the officers.

Prior to Thursday, detectives believed the shooting to have been random. They have not commented further in light of the new evidence.

Also on Thursday detectives said the shooter is likely someone who underwent a significant personal crisis in the past and may often have been outspoken about a deep personal grievance, police said Thursday.

And investigators believed he used a Datsun 210 with a model year of 1980 to 1983 to carry out the shooting of Officer Tim Brenton near the intersection of 29th Avenue and East Yesler Way.

Photo provided by SPD of similar car believed used in shooting of Seattle Police officer.
Investigators working with outside agencies have developed a personality profile of the suspect. They say his skills with weapons suggests some prior training, such as previous employment or hobbies involving firearms.

The gunman may have practiced for the shooting, and he may have altered or hidden the vehicle afterwards, Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said Thursday at a press briefing.

It's probable that the gunman had been outspoken about a deep personal grievance, perhaps involving his employment or position in life. And even though he shot a police officer, he may admire or act like them, investigators said.

Investigators said one or more others may have been involved in planning the attack but didn't know it would result in murder. It's possible that those others may now fear for their own safety.

"We are willing to listen and help, if such an individual wishes to contact us about the killer," Pugel said. He said detectives were able to narrow down the type of car used with a patrol car's dash camera, which shows a car similar to the light-colored subcompact from which the fatal shots were fired.

Police Spokesman Sean Whitcomb said the video was recorded around the time and vicinity of the shooting, which also wounded Britt Sweeney, an officer in training.

They are now trying to identify the exact car through licensing records and bills of sale.

If anyone has recently sold a 1980 to '83 Datsun 210 or had one stolen, it is important that they call Seattle Police at 206-233-5000, Pugel said. A reward of $105,000 has been offered for information leading to an arrest and prosecution of whoever is responsible for the killing of Brenton, who was training Sweeney on the night of the tragedy. Reward posters are already up.

After the shooting that killed Brenton and grazed Officer Britt Sweeney, the attacker's car backed away in an apparent attempt to avoid the police car's camera. Whitcomb said that's a sign the shooting was planned.

 Timothy Brenton
Investigators believe Britt hit the fleeing car when she returned fire.

Brenton was a nine-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department. He graduated from West Seattle High School in 1988. His father and his uncle are both retired Seattle police officers.

A public memorial service for Brenton is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. at KeyArena. Doors will open at 11 a.m., and a procession of more than 1,000 vehicles will travel through the city in advance of the service beginning at 9 a.m.

We will have live coverage of the memorial on komonews.com and KOMO 4 TV.