SEATTLE - Paralyzed by a detective's bullet, a man accused of killing a Seattle police officer on Halloween was wheeled into a courtroom on Monday and pleaded not guilty to charges that could bring the death penalty.
Christopher Monfort, 41, was handcuffed and shackled despite his condition, and a lawyer entered the pleas on his behalf as Officer Timothy Brenton's widow and fellow officers looked on. Monfort's defense team surrounded him, sometimes holding a clipboard in front of his face to obscure the view of him from the packed courtroom.
Deputy prosecutor John Castleton summarized most of the five charges against Monfort, but read one verbatim: that of aggravated first-degree murder. Investigators said he drove alongside Brenton's cruiser as it was parked after a traffic stop in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood and opened fire, killing Brenton instantly and grazing the neck of his partner, Brit Sweeney.
Monfort is also charged with arson and attempted murder for the firebombing of several police vehicles in a maintenance yard on Oct. 22.
Detectives located the suspect at his Tukwila apartment Nov. 6 after the complex's manager called police with a tip that Monfort owned a vehicle similar to the one investigators were looking for, an early '80s Datsun. When they approached him, detectives said, he ran, aimed a handgun and pulled the trigger - to no avail, because he had neglected to load a bullet into the chamber.
Police opened fire, paralyzing him from the waist down. Inside his apartment, they found evidence he was preparing for a last stand: several guns and homemade bombs, one with a fuse placed on the heating element of his kitchen stove, and stacks of automobile tires that could provide shelter from a hail of police bullets.
Ballistics evidence proved one of the guns was used to kill Brenton, and Monfort's DNA was found on one small American flag and an American flag-style bandanna left at the site of the arson and on the ground near Brenton's cruiser.