Charges: Cop shot in head, his seat belt buckled

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH and CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2010 - 6:07 PM

Joshua Martin was charged as an accomplice in killing of Maplewood Sgt. Joe Bergeron. 'We smoked that cop,' the charges quote Martin as telling a friend.

A 21-year-old man was charged late Monday morning with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and with kidnapping in the shooting death of Maplewood Police Sgt. Joseph Bergeron two days earlier.

"We jacked that guy and we smoked that cop," the charges quote Joshua Michael Martin, 21, of St. Paul, as telling one of two friends later arrested on suspicion of helping Martin elude police in the hours after Saturday's shooting and the alleged carjacking earlier that morning.

The other suspect, Jason J. Jones, 21, of St. Paul, was killed by a St. Paul officer when the two scuffled hours after Bergeron's death. Police allege that it was Jones who fired the shot that killed Bergeron.

Jones shot Bergeron "one time in the head while he was still seated in his squad with his seat belt buckled," the charges read.

A jogger said he saw Jones point a pistol at the officer and fire it "at point-blank range," the charges added.

Even though Martin did not fire the fatal shot, "he's equally as culpable as if he had pulled the trigger, according to the charges we filed today," County Attorney Susan Gaertner said at a news conference early Monday afternoon.

The kidnapping charge against Martin is tied to his alleged role with Jones in the carjacking.

Authorities added that two additional arrests in the case have been made on suspicion of helping Martin elude arrest.

Charges are expected Monday or early Tuesday against Martin family friends James Lentz, 21, and Lentz's sister Angelina Koepke, 23. The two live at the Duluth Street duplex. Martin tried to hide out in the upper level, where Koepke lives, authorities say.

According to police, Martin called Lentz and said he needed help. Lentz drove him to the duplex.

Upon being picked up by Lentz at Selby and Western Avenues, Martin told his friend, "We jacked that guy and we smoked that cop," according to the charges against Martin.

Lentz's mother, Christine Bickell, who lives with her son on the lower level, said Monday that Martin "came in acting tough and said he was in a lot of trouble."

At a court hearing Monday afternoon, bail was set at $2 million for Martin, who attended the brief hearing wearing a Kevlar gown that is designed to guard against him harming himself with jail garb that is typically made of cloth. Martin is on suicide watch.

Tawnya Konobeck-Essen, of Minneapolis, said on her Facebook page that Martin, her younger brother, "is innocent ... but the city is going to try to brand otherwise. ... He is in my heart."

According to the charges:

Jones and Martin got into a man's SUV at Corner Gas, 304 E. Larpenteur, pointed guns at his head and ordered him to drive from the St. Paul business. The victim said he didn't have money on him but had cash at home.

But instead of driving to his house, the man went to the 1300 block of Ripley Avenue in Maplewood, where he got out of the vehicle and fled. He found a resident who called police. Jones and Martin then ran from the vehicle.

In response to the carjacking report, Bergeron said over the radio that he was in contact with two people near Bruce Vento Trail and Arlington Avenue. A moment later, a male voice came over the radio saying that Bergeron had been shot and that two men were running from the scene.

A witness who was jogging in the area told police that he saw Bergeron open his car door. He said the men approached the sergeant, Jones shot the officer and both suspects ran. The witness called for assistance using the radio clipped to Bergeron's belt.

Police established a perimeter around the area as the hunt for Jones and Martin escalated. Near Ivy Avenue and Birmingham Street, Jones walked toward St. Paul officer David Longbehn. Jones was talking loudly on his cell phone and carrying what appeared to be a tool box.

Longbehn order Jones to stop and frisked the suspect. Jones struck the officer with a large bolt wrapped in cloth, breaking Longbehn's nose and a number of facial bones. The two fought, and at one point Longbehn shot Jones several times, killing him.

Meanwhile, Martin's parents notified police that their son had called them and said it was only Jones who had been involved in the carjacking and the shooting of Bergeron.

Sometime later, Martin got on the phone and told police he would not surrender and was angry that police killed Jones, whom he described as his "brother."

By the time police arrived at the parents' house, Martin had fled.

Martin called an officer who knew the family and told him he was at a duplex on Duluth Street near Case Avenue, and was prepared to slit his wrists with the knives he was holding rather than be taken alive.

Martin did cut himself and was bleeding "pretty good," but he did not hit an artery. It was then that he surrendered to police.

In an interview with police, Martin said he and Jones were approached by a man looking for marijuana. Martin said they agreed to help and got into his SUV. The man drove to what he said was his house, got out and ran. Martin and Jones then ran as well.

Martin said they were stopped by Bergeron. He and Jones approached the squad car, then Jones shot the sergeant. Martin said he was unarmed and didn't know Jones had a gun.

In a statement announcing the charges against Martin, Gaertner said: "With the filing of charges, we have taken a first step toward holding the defendant in this case accountable for a horrific crime. The enormity of this tragedy cannot be overstated."

Visitation for Bergeron is scheduled for Wednesday from 4 to 8 pm. at the Maplewood Community Center, 2100 White Bear Av., Maplewood. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Paul, 239 Selby Av., St. Paul.

Burial at St. John's Cemetery, Little Canada, will immediately follow.

The Sgt. Joe Bergeron Memorial Fund, in support of his family, has been established at the City & County Credit Union, 1661 Cope Av. E., Maplewood.

"It's been 53 hours, and the loss grows bigger every day," Thomalla said. "This has really ripped his family apart."

Star Tribune staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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