Halloween night, 2009—Seattle Police officer Timothy Brenton and rookie trainee Britt Sweeney pull over on 29th Avenue, just north of Yesler Way, to de-brief following a traffic stop and citation made a few blocks away. While Officer Brenton was reviewing the paperwork protocol with Sweeney, a car pulled up alongside and the occupant fired several rifle rounds into the cruiser, killing Brenton and wounding Sweeney.
Brenton was an officer known personally by many Leschi residents through his previous assignment as a community liaison to our neighborhood. The assailant was a stranger to Brenton, and his motivation may never be fully understood, other than as a perverse obsession, compounded by mental illness, with perceived police force abuses.
The impact of the tragedy rattled Leschi, particularly those living near the site. Over the course of a week, an impromptu memorial sprung up, with an impressive mound of flowers, candles and messages as well as police officers maintaining a nearly constant vigil, all under the relentless spotlight of TV cameras. Possibly the most moving mementos were left by police officers from around the region: badges from their precincts, each wrapped by a single black ribbon.
Seeking to deepen the thought behind the temporary gesture and to move beyond their own shock and grief, a neighborhood committee, led by Leschi residents Robert Cipollone, Judy Blanco, Susan Dodds and Jeff Floor, formed to design and build a permanent memorial.
The design concept by Blanco begins with the distinct form of the police badge, sliced through with the absence of a black slash, harkening to the traditional symbol of mourning for a fallen officer. The graphically compelling 6699 is Brenton’s actual badge number. Strips of black granite reach out in two directions, bearing single words offered to Blanco by Brenton’s family (“father, brother, friend, mentor…”), evocative facets of the person killed. The plantings deliberately grow into the spaces around the granite strips with low-lying green mondo and liriope gradually give way to taller, looser forms of assorted ferns and Japanese forest grass. A specimen tree – Japanese snowbell – vertically punctuates the north end of the planted space.
The border of the planted precinct is formed with salvaged red granite pavers set on edge, with gray granite pavers enclosing the red granite. All granite pavers were donated by the City of Seattle from the remaining stockpile of surplus material from Westlake Park.
The project was dedicated on the year anniversary of Brenton’s death. It was built in large part by neighborhood volunteers, with sidewalk paving and general contracting donated by Ferguson Construction. Quirring Monuments donated the cut and polished stone badge. Funding for initial construction and ongoing maintenance has been provided through donations to the Leschi Community Council by numerous residents and organizations including the Seattle Police Guild, Blu-Water Bistro, Leschi Market and others.
The Officer Brenton Memorial is located on 29th Ave, just east of Yesler Way.