An altered jogging route led a retired St. Paul firefighter to ground zero of the deadly police shooting.
About a mile into his morning jog on Saturday, Bill Langevin changed his mind and decided to run his five-mile route instead of the four he'd planned. A dozen days earlier, the 61-year-old retired St. Paul firefighter had completed his 26th Boston Marathon, so he was going to take it easy.
He felt good. It was 6:30 a.m., with the weekend dawning, when Langevin veered off the Gateway Trail and headed south on the Vento Trail.
"If I would have taken the shorter route," he said Tuesday, "I would have finished 10 minutes earlier and never would have seen what happened."
Instead, he heard a police car behind him, moved over and waved at the officer. Maplewood Sgt. Joe Bergeron smiled and waved back.
A couple minutes later, Langevin noticed the officer had stopped, opened his door and was sitting there when two males came around his car door. "The black male raised his right hand with a weapon, extended the weapon inside the police vehicle, shot the officer, dropped his arm and ran away," Langevin said.
'What if ... '
Langevin kept running toward the car. Not until later did he think about what would have happened if Jason Jones, the shooter, or his alleged accomplice, Joshua Martin, had looked over their shoulders and caught a glimpse of the eyewitness.
"If they saw me, they would have killed me," he said. "They could have gone around the front of the vehicle and waited for me to come up there and shot me at close-range like they did the officer."
When he got to the vehicle, he saw Bergeron had been shot in the forehead. There was blood everywhere.
He couldn't find the police radio on the dashboard, so he grabbed the radio attached to the left side of the slain officer's belt. He called for help, gave his location, described the suspects and noted that they were running south down the Vento Trail.
Langevin worked as St. Paul cop for four years before joining the city's Fire Department for 20 years. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father were firefighters, too, stringing together 115 consecutive years on the force.
"The big difference is when someone gets killed, you get there after the situation is over with," he said. "You don't see them beforehand and you don't see them get executed. That's what makes it so terrible -- that I saw the situation develop and the officer get literally executed as he was sitting in his police vehicle."
Langevin hopes his actions helped police catch Jones, who was shot and killed after attacking another officer, and Martin, who has been charged with second-degree murder. He just wishes that "instead of shooting him in the head, if they would have shot him lower down and he had a chance to live, I could have given him CPR."
He's jogged past the scene every morning since Saturday.
"Sunday was a hard day because I retraced my steps to the exact location," he said. "I kind of broke down and cried and said some prayers for Joe."
They'd never met, besides that quick wave. But Langevin will be at the Maplewood Community Center for the visitation Wednesday.
What if he hadn't changed course? He met a walker on the trail Monday who said he was about 5 minutes behind Langevin and would have come across the scene, probably after the suspects fled.
"They could have hijacked another car and killed somebody else," he said. "After they had killed a police officer, nothing else mattered to them. They were so ruthless in what they did."
Curt Brown • 612-673-4767