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Remembering A Fallen Hero — Thousands turn out to honor slain Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton

Seattle resident Leila Martinez holds a sign in honor of slain Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton outside the Key Arena in Seattle Nov. 6.   - Kirk Boxleitner
Seattle resident Leila Martinez holds a sign in honor of slain Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton outside the Key Arena in Seattle Nov. 6.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

SEATTLE — The passing of Marysville resident and Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton inspired strong emotions in family, friends, fellow public safety workers and complete strangers during his Nov. 6 memorial service at the Key Arena in Seattle.

Seattle resident Leila Martinez and Tacoma native Robert Wheat both stood outside the Key Arena holding signs in honor of Brenton and his family before the memorial service. Martinez was inspired by the help that her family has received from the police over the years, while Wheat’s heart went out to Brenton’s widow, Lisa.

“It’s wrong,” Martinez said of Brenton’s Oct. 31 shooting death. “It’s cold. They risk their lives to protect us, so we should show our support for them. These kids don’t have a dad now. I never thought this would happen in Seattle.”

“I’m married, and I can’t imagine if my wife was a police officer and this happened to her,” Wheat said. “I’m just doing what little I can to tell his widow that Pierce County sends its love.”

Alvin Graham, who does charity bike rides on behalf of veterans and their families, had purchased stuffed animals for Brenton’s family, and was looking to find out how he could give them his gifts.

Seattle Fire Honor Guard Travis Stanley reflected on the close working relationship between the city’s police officers and firefighters.

“I never met him, but public safety workers are one big family,” Stanley said. “The loss of one is felt across those boundaries. We’re here to show our support and respect for the family.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Derek Thibodeau was part of the Vancouver group that came south to join in showing their support and respect for Brenton and his family.

“It’s a sad day for police everywhere,” Thibodeau said. “He made the ultimate sacrifice, in the line of duty, and our hearts and souls go out to his family.”

Seattle Police Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer characterized Brenton as an upright, courageous man of dignity who died while teaching as a field training officer. Defining a hero as someone who puts aside his self-interest to benefit others, Kimerer deemed Brenton and his fellow officers as heroes for doing their duty.

“The days of our lives are numbered, but it’s the quality of those days that matters as much as their duration,” Kimerer said.

Kimerer spoked about Brenton’s public safety career, from his membership in the Seattle Police Explorers before he graduated West Seattle High School in 1988 and his nine-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, during which he saw the Berlin Wall come down while stationed there and served in the first Gulf War. After stints in the Hoquiam and La Conner police departments, Brenton followed in his father’s footsteps by starting as a patrol officer in the Seattle Police Department in 2000. Following a stint in its Anti-Crime Task Force, Brenton became a patrol officer again to serve as a field training officer, in which capacity he was serving for Officer Britt Sweeney when their patrol car was shot at Oct. 31.

“In his short time with us, he distinguished himself,” Kimerer said. “He’s left a legacy as a field training officer that others officers would do well to emulate.”

John Diaz, interim chief of Seattle Police, praised Brenton for following in the career path of his father and uncle, as well as for passing on his own values to the next generation of officers as a field training officer. He pledged that the department would bring to justice those responsible for Brenton’s death, and promised Brenton’s widow that the department will never forget her family.

“His life was cut short by a savage attack that was as cruel and cowardly as it was calculating,” said Diaz, who had warned that he would become emotional. “We lost a great police officer. We lost a great man.”

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels echoed Diaz’s praise of Sweeney’s courage under fire after Brenton’s shooting, and relayed the thanks of Brenton’s widow to the community for the love and support they’ve shown her family.

“Our entire community is grieving,” Nickels said. “We are inspired by his service and humbled by his sacrifice.”

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire repeated Kimerer’s assessment that Brenton and his fellow officers give more than they receive from the community and expressed her gratitude on behalf of the state, while R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, noted that the everyday sacrifices of time and effort that police officers make for their jobs don’t often make the news.

Seattle Police officers Evan Ehring and Eugene Schubeck offered amusing and heartfelt anecdotes from the years they served with Brenton. Ehring was Brenton’s partner for several years, starting with Brenton’s arrival to the department in 2000. When Brenton shielded a woman from gunfire, Ehring told him how heroic his actions were, but Brenton brushed him off by joking, “That lady was in my way. I was trying to find cover.” In another example of Brenton’s humor, Ehring recalled that Brenton followed his arrest of a suspect by telling the suspect, “I have good news, though. I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.”

“There are so many stories, most of which wouldn’t be appropriate here,” Ehring said, drawing laughter from the audience. “I’m going to work hard to fill his shoes.”

After Ehring and Kimerer shared a tearful hug onstage, Schubeck credited Brenton with nudging him to apply for the Seattle Police Department with him.

“We were hired together,” Schubeck said. “I owe Tim immeasurable gratitude.”

Schubeck had served on the La Conner Police Department with Brenton, when Brenton’s brother Matt was working as a reservist, and with Brenton’s father living just up the street from the police station. Schubeck witnessed the first time that Brenton, a future ACT member, kicked down a door on duty, and also helped pull Brenton’s leg out of the door, since it had a hollow core.

“He was a modest guy,” Schubeck said. “I’m glad he was my friend. I’m glad his family are my friends.”

Brenton’s sister-in-law Jennifer Crigger, read a poem in honor of a spot that Brenton and her sister enjoyed visiting, and told Brenton’s children, Kayleigh and Quinn, that while she can’t bring their father back, “There’s not a soul in this room that wouldn’t do anything for you.”

Closer to Brenton’s Marysville home, city of Marysville Athletic Coordinator Dave Hall recalled Brenton’s family as regular participants for years in programs such as day camps and basketball, the latter of which Brenton coached on occasion.

“It’s mind-boggling and senseless,” Hall said. “I feel so much for his wife and kids. We are all just heartbroken for them.”

“The city is doing whatever it can, along with the Seattle Police Department, to help the family get through this tough time,” Marysville Police Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux said. “It’s going to take all of us working together to get through this, and the police department is willing to help in any way we can that’s asked of us.”

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