Man accused in 2009 killing of Seattle police officer says 'hands up, don't shoot' at trial

SEATTLE -- Opening statements began in the case against Christopher Monfort, the man accused of killing Seattle police officer Tim Brenton in 2009.

Monfort was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police. Officers say Monfort tried to shoot at them during his arrest and so they fired back.

Before he went into his trial on Tuesday, Monfort spoke out in front of cameras.

“American citizens have the responsibility to protect their rights and the rights of the other citizens,” said Monfort.

Prosecutors say Monfort stalked Brenton and fellow officer Britt Sweeney as they sat in their patrol car. They say he drove up alongside them and fired an assault rifle.

“Before she could see anything more, she (Sweeney) saw a brilliant flash and an ear-splitting sound; it was gunfire,” prosecutor John Castleton said.

Sweeney, just two months out of the police academy, fired back, but Brenton, her training officer, was dead. The prosecution says Monfort targeted two strangers in the name of stopping police brutality.

“It was because they wore a badge -- they were targeted, ambushed and attacked."

Monfort’s DNA was not only left at that ambush, according to prosecutors, but also at the scene where several police cars were set on fire nine days earlier.

“The bombs had been placed in the gas tanks of those vehicles,” Castleton said.

Multiple fliers citing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were left next to the torched vehicles. Police say Monfort also threatened more violence.

A portion of the flier stated:

“Start policing each other or get ready to attend a lot of police funerals.”

The defense does not deny that Monfort is the killer.

“Christopher Monfort has a mental illness,” defense attorney Todd Gruenhagen said.

They argue he is not guilty by reason of insanity, specifically delusional disorder.

“You can seem absolutely normal in every aspect,” Gruenhagen said.

The defense says Monfort became obsessed with police brutality after seeing a video of a 15-year-old girl being hit by a King County sheriff’s deputy.

They say the image was the tipping point for Monfort, who believed killing a police officer was standing up for Americans, similar to how the people stood up against the British.

“He feels that with every molecule of his being, he is serving,” Gruenhagen said.

Previously known for his outbursts, Monfort yelled out several times inside court. Outside as he was leaving the courtroom, he said, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

That was a saying and gesture originating from the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The gesture was seen in demonstrations in Ferguson after the shooting incident, and throughout the United States following the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer involved in the shooting