A loss that grieves us all

Grief over the on-duty death of a police officer is shared throughout a community. Losing one of our protectors in the line of duty takes something away from each of us — physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Perhaps even more so in the case of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton. The apparent randomness of the cold-blooded attack on Brenton, 39, who lived in Marysville with his wife and two young children, and officer-trainee Britt Sweeney as they sat in their patrol car Saturday night leaves an uneasiness that’s hard to reconcile. What does it say about our society, about how many holes have been punched in its fabric?

Police officers understand the daily risks they take. They know a potentially fatal call could come at any time. They’re trained to face danger with appropriate force, to make life-and-death decisions in a split-second. Usually, that training pays off.

Brenton didn’t even get that split-second. According to department officials, he had no chance to react. By the time Sweeney was able to sense something was wrong and yell a warning, it was too late. Brenton was killed instantly; Sweeney, 33, who was being trained by Brenton, was grazed by bullets in the back. With presence of mind no doubt sharpened by her training, Sweeney had managed to duck, then to climb out of the car and fire shots at the assailant’s vehicle as it sped away.

Her actions were an example of the valor we tend to take for granted in our protectors — police, firefighters, our troops fighting overseas. Valor is an everyday trait for such folks, one they assume willingly, but that they and their families can never take for granted. For when it’s time to go to work, none of them really know whether today’s “goodbye” will be their last.

Brenton’s family knew that feeling well. His father and an uncle had also been Seattle police officers. A brother-in-law is a Seattle firefighter. Yet like so many other front-line protectors here and around the world, they followed a calling and sense of duty most of us can only imagine — and admire.

To all of them, a grateful community offers its thanks.

To the family of Officer Timothy Brenton, that community offers its condolences and prayers. We can’t feel the complete depth of your loss, but we do share your grief.

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