Dead suspect was ex-con whose recent prison stint was for double shooting

Saint Paul police officer David Longbehn stood alone on a shady street near Lake Phalen on Saturday morning, one of hundreds on high alert during a tense hunt for two ex-cons who three hours before had gunned down a Maplewood officer in cold blood.

When a young man emerged from the woods behind him carrying a metal toolbox, Longbehn approached to question him.

Suddenly, the man attacked Longbehn and the two grappled on the ground. The attacker straddled the officer and hit him over and over again, breaking his nose and possibly the bones around both eyes. Finally able to reach his weapon, Longbehn pulled the trigger several times.

The man suspected of killing Maplewood Sgt. Joseph Bergeron -- an ex-con whose recent prison stint was for a double shooting -- collapsed onto E. Ivy Avenue.

Louis Feider, who lives on Ivy Avenue, was just driving up with a friend.

"The cop had blood on his mustache and on his nose," Feider said. "That's when he raised his gun and fired. There must have been three or four shots and [the suspect] fell to the ground. There were sudden jerks, and then he just kind of went dead.

"I yelled at [the officer], 'Are you OK?' and he just looked at me in utter shock. He didn't say anything."

The day's bloody events, involving hundreds of officers in a methodical manhunt that plunged residents east and south of Lake Phalen into fear and confusion, began at 6:45 a.m. At that time, Bergeron was fatally shot near English Street and Arlington Avenue, just south of St. Paul's border with Maplewood, said St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington.

A man had called from an address in the 1300 block of Ripley Avenue in Maplewood to report that two young men had carjacked him near Interstate 35E and Larpenteur Avenue, and dropped him off on Ripley. When officers arrived about 6:40 a.m., they found the victim's unoccupied vehicle.

Five minutes later, Bergeron was on Bruce Vento Trail near Arlington Avenue. There he spotted two men who matched the suspects' descriptions. As he opened his squad car door, one of them walked up to the car and shot him, police said.

A jogger who had just passed by heard the shots, looked back and saw the suspects running away. The jogger ran back, saw that Bergeron had been wounded and used the officer's car radio to call for help.

Bergeron was rushed to Regions Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The 49-year-old officer hadn't originally been scheduled to work Saturday morning. He leaves behind a wife and 13-year-old twin daughters.

Maplewood Police Chief Dave Thomalla characterized the killing as a cold-blooded ambush.

"He was a very proud officer ... and one of the finest people I know, and he was murdered today, senselessly," Thomalla said.

A fight to the death

After being shot by Longbehn just before 11 a.m., the first suspect, identified later as Jason John Jones, 21, lay dead on his back, one arm twisted beneath his body as police remained on guard for the second suspect, identified later as Joshua Michael Martin, 21.

Just seven weeks ago, Jones had walked out of St. Cloud prison after serving 27 months for first-degree aggravated robbery in which two people were shot, though an assault-with-a-dangerous-weapon charge was dropped in a plea bargain, according to police and public records. He was on supervised release, and the Corrections Department had him listed as a "Wanted Fugitive" on its website Saturday.

Police said he had an extensive criminal record as a juvenile, including robbery, stabbing a female, theft and alcohol and drug offenses.

A neighbor of Martin's said he lived with his mother in the 600 block of Selby Avenue. Martin's mother, Cindie Konobeck, declined to comment about her son other than to say, "He's a very good boy" who grew up in St. Paul. His Facebook page says he graduated from St. Paul Central High School in 2007.

Police say he robbed a pizza delivery driver in West St. Paul in November 2007. His 10-year sentence for aggravated robbery was reduced to 227 days in the Dakota County jail, resulting in his release in October 2008. He is still on probation.

An aunt of Martin's, Carrie Konobeck, echoed her sister's sentiments, saying Martin is "a good kid ... who was with the wrong people." She wrote on her Facebook page that "my prayers are with the family of the officer shot and killed in maplewood."

Officer Longbehn was taken to Regions, where he was in satisfactory condition Saturday night. Longbehn is assigned to the K-9 unit and has worked for the St. Paul police department since 1984.

After Jones was shot, an intensive house-to-house search continued in the area around Lake Phalen for the second suspect. SWAT teams and police dogs continued to roam the area while helicopters whirred overhead.

At 12:30 p.m., investigators received a tip that Martin was in St. Paul's Selby-Dale area, at a relative's home. As a search warrant was being drafted, a second tip surfaced that he was at Lawson Apartments at 1032 Duluth St., back near Lake Phalen.

After about an hour of telephone negotiations, Martin surrendered to police in the second-floor hall of the building.

When taken into custody, Martin had injuries consistent with suicidal intentions, but they were not life-threatening, Harrington said.

The chief said a gun and other evidence were found near the scene, though investigators don't know if it was used to kill Bergeron, and investigators have not ruled out the possibility of a second firearm. Investigators are meeting with prosecutors Sunday to discuss charges against Martin.

Residents of the Lawson Arms apartment building stood dazed after SWAT teams cleared out, trying to make sense of what they had seen and heard.

Resident Donnie Thomas said he knew Martin as an occasional visitor to the complex and an affable man who minded his own business.

"He didn't bother nobody," Thomas said. "He has friends here. When they brought him out the door, I couldn't believe it was him. He never bothered a soul. He'd come over, sit and drink beer. This is hard. This is not him."

For Maplewood, more sorrow

For Maplewood police, Saturday's killing was the second harrowing incident in less than a year. On Sept. 7, North St. Paul officer Richard Crittenden was fatally shot while responding to a domestic dispute. Moments later, Maplewood police officer Julie Olsen, who was assisting Crittenden, fatally shot suspect Devon Dockery. The Ramsey County attorney's office later ruled that Olsen had acted properly.

"Once again, it's a tragic day for the law enforcement community," said Thomalla. "Maplewood lost one of its finest officers. Our hearts go out to the officer's family."

Referring to the 2009 shootings, the chief said: "Many of those wounds haven't healed yet. We are a family. It's a tragic loss for everybody."

That sense of loss went well beyond the law enforcement community alone.

"People who can walk out and shoot an officer -- I don't have the words," said Melissa Szepezi. "It's not right. It's evil. It's cruel, and people in our neighborhoods don't want it. This is disgusting."

Staff writer Bob von Sternberg contributed to this report.

asimons@startribune.com • 612-673-4921

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