A steady stream of people came to the memorial site to leave flowers, stand in silence and memoralize the life of Sgt. Joe Bergeron Sunday morning.

Brian Peterson, Dml - Star Tribune

Slain officer's funeral Service information for Maplewood Police Sgt. Joseph Bergeron, killed Saturday: •Visitation: 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Maplewood Community Center, 2100 White Bear Av., Maplewood. •Funeral: 10 a.m. Thursday, Cathedral of St. Paul, 239 Selby Av., St. Paul. •Sgt. Joe Bergeron Memorial Fund, City & County Credit Union, 1661 Cope Av. E., Maplewood, MN 55109-2614

Charges: Suspect says 'we smoked that cop'

  • Star Tribune
  • May 4, 2010 - 7:18 AM

When family friend Joshua M. Martin showed up Saturday morning at Christine Bickell's apartment on St. Paul's East Side, she thought he was joking when he said he was running from a police shooting.

"Josh was kind of a hotshot who thought he was tough," said Bickell, 58. "He looked at me and said: 'I'm in trouble.'"

Just how much trouble became clear Monday when Ramsey County authorities charged Martin, 21, with intentional second-degree murder for his non-shooting role in the death of a veteran Maplewood police officer.

Sgt. Joseph Bergeron, 49, was still belted in his squad car when Jason J. Jones shot him once in the head, according to the criminal complaint. Hours later, a police officer fatally shot Jones after the suspect smashed him in the face with a cloth-wrapped bolt while being frisked.

Martin also had fled the murder scene and two people who allegedly helped him were arrested Monday as the case expanded.

At a one-minute arraignment hearing Monday, Martin's bail was set at $2 million. Wearing a bulletproof Kevlar vest over his bare chest, Martin was also charged with kidnapping for his part in an alleged car jacking that set off Saturday's deadly series of shootings. Although the complaint makes it clear Martin did not shoot Bergeron, the case still may go to a grand jury for possible charges of first-degree murder of a police officer.

"Under the law, he is equally culpable as if he had pulled the trigger," Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said.

A brother and sister with whom Martin spent his final pre-surrender minutes are expected to be charged with aiding an offender. James I. Lentz, 21, picked Martin up near Selby Avenue and Dale Street and brought him back to the East Side apartment Lentz shares with his mother, Bickell.

According to the charges, Martin told Lentz: "We jacked that guy and we smoked that cop."

When Bickell learned he was caught up in the police shooting, she said, she ordered Martin to leave. He then went upstairs to where Bickell's daughter, Angelina Koepke, lives and tried to slit his wrists before giving up.

"She got scared and told the police outside he was trying to kill himself and 'I don't want him to die up here, get him out,'" Bickell said. "Now my two kids are sitting in jail because Josh made a bad decision and my son [Lentz] made a bad decision by letting him go there."

History of botched crimes

Bad decisions are nothing new for Jones and Martin, who both attended St. Paul Central High School and spent time in 2006 at Boys Totem Town, a juvenile delinquent center.

According to court records, Jones, 21, shot two people in 2007 and stabbed a 14-year-old girl at a party in 2005 when he was 16. The shootings were part of a botched robbery attempt in October 2007.

The robbery's target told police that Jones tried to pistol-whip him. The gun Jones carried went off and struck the victim in the back. Jones fired two more shots in the St. Paul robbery attempt. Both hit one of his companions in the belly.

Jones' bungling paid off in one way: Jones never succeeded in actually taking anything from the man he shot. That forced prosecutors to charge him with attempted aggravated robbery instead of the more serious crime of robbery, said Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Rick Dusterhoft, who prosecuted the case. Prosecutors never charged Jones for shooting his friend because, Dusterhoft said, Jones "didn't intend to assault his friend."

Martin's brushes with the law showed he was equally inept at crime. In November 2007, he was arrested along with a juvenile accomplice for using a BB gun to rob a delivery driver attempting to drop off two pizzas in West St. Paul.

Martin was caught after the pizza restaurant traced the cell phone number used in ordering the pizzas. Police tracked the number to Martin's juvenile accomplice. Martin eventually admitted to the robbery, and ordering the pizza delivery driver to hand over the money and pizza bag.

At 17, Martin pleaded guilty as a juvenile to aggravated robbery, approaching victims with a BB gun that looked real and demanding money in 2006.

Martin now faces 40 years if convicted, and Bickell, who has known him since he was a toddler, predicted: "He's going to go away for the rest of his life and he's too young for that."

Tawnya Konobeck-Essen, a Minneapolis theater performer, 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."

It started as a carjacking

According to the complaint, the deadly scenario started at 6:30 a.m. Saturday when Jones and Martin got into a man's SUV at a Corner Gas on Larpenteur Avenue, pointed guns at his head and ordered him to drive. The victim said he didn't have money but had cash at home.

Instead of driving to his house, the man went to the 1300 block of Ripley Avenue in Maplewood, where he got out of the SUV 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. 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 jogger told police he saw Jones point a pistol at the officer and fire it "at point-blank range." The jogger then 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 on his cell phone and carrying what looked like a tool box.

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

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

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

By the time police arrived at the parents' house, Martin had fled to the Duluth Avenue apartment building where Bickell and her kids live.

Martin did cut himself and was bleeding "pretty good," but he missed an artery, the complaint says. His wrists were taped when he appeared in court Monday.

In an interview with police, Martin offered a different version of the carjacking story. 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 ran as well, eventually encountering Bergeron.

Police recovered a pistol with bullets a few blocks from the shooting scene. The bullets match the cartridge found near Bergeron's squad car.

At the morning roll call at the Maplewood Police Department, Chief David Thomalla reminded officers "that almost all people are nice. We dealt with two Saturday who were not. They need to keep that in mind." • 612-673-4767 | • 612-673-4425 | • 612-673-4029 Staff writers Kevin Giles, Paul Walsh and Chao Xiong contributed to this report.

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