REGION: Illinois Police Officer Nearly Shot And Killed In Fight Over Gun With Suspect

LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS — The Lake County State’s Attorney released both dashcam and bodycam video this past Monday night from a shooting in July 2018 that involved a man wanted in Pennsylvania. The officer fought for survival after the fugitive pulled a gun, so quickly there was barely time to react.

In the video, Lakemoor Officer Brianna Tedesco approaches an SUV with out-of-state plates. The driver, who is asleep, tells her his name is James Dunkin.

“I just have to make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything, which I’m sure you don’t,” she tells him in the video.

But James Dunkin is in fact Kenneth Martell, wanted for murder in Pennsylvania. Tedesco writes down his plate number. Martell, 36, was wanted by Pennsylvania State Police at Meadville for allegedly killing Theodore M. Garver, 88, during a July 23 robbery at Garver’s home on Parker Road in Beaver Township. State police said Martell was driving a Kia Sorento sport utility vehicle with Pennsylvania license plate KHL-4596.

“They’re not finding a DL, a driver’s license record, for a James Dunkin. Do you have anything in the vehicle with your name on it?” she asks him.

Perhaps sensing he’s been caught, Martell pulls his weapon on the officer. The struggle over the weapon lasts an agonizing 20 seconds. Martell also attempts to grab a second gun.

“Retreat was not an option,” Michael G. Nerheim, Lake County state’s attorney, said in a statement issued Wednesday. “With both officers within feet of a man armed with two handguns, only one option remained for the officers: To defend themselves.”

Nerheim issued the statement Wednesday after a review of a Lake County, Ill., Major Crimes Task Force report on the circumstances of the shooting. The report included audio and video recordings captured via police body cameras and police squad car video recordings as well as toxicology reports on Martell’s remains.

The Lake County State’s Attorney Office is expected to make the footage available within the next two weeks.

Martel’s family told police investigators that Martell abused illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, and Martell had made statements to friends and family that “cops were going to kill him over a drug bust” and he was “not going down without a fight.”

Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper ruled Martell died of a single gunshot wound to the head and Martell had amphetamine, methamphetamine and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system at the time of his death.

“This case, once again, highlights the incredibly dangerous jobs that our law enforcement officers endure,” Nerheim said. “Every encounter that they experience can, without warning, turn deadly.”

While two weapons were found near the lap of Martell — a fully loaded .38 caliber revolver and an unloaded .22 caliber magnum revolver, a subsequent search for evidence in a wood area near the shooting scene turned up much more.

Martell had hidden a large number of weapons, including rifles, shotguns, crossbows and ammunition along with court documents, bail bond documentation and a criminal summons all in the name of Kenneth Martell, the report said. Also found in the area was stolen property and identification cards belonging to Theodore Garver, the man Martell was accused of killing, the report said.

“I would like to express my condolences to the family of Theodore Garver,” Nerheim said. “And though Kenneth Martell’s death was a consequence of his own actions, I express sympathy to his family.”

Nerheim said his office will make the case file open and available to the public.

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