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The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois

Press Release

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

State’s Attorney Berlin Finds Officers Justified in Addison Officer-Involved Shooting

February 26, 2020

 

“Every case involving the use of deadly force by a police officer must be carefully and thoroughly investigated. Such scrutiny is required to ensure the protection of the civil rights of those involved and to maintain the public’s confidence in law enforcement.

Following an extensive and thorough investigation conducted by the DuPage County MERIT Public Integrity Team regarding the suicide and officer-involved shooting of thirty-two year-old John Kennedy by Addison police officers, it is my determination that the officers involved, Johnston, Bjes and Baquero, who discharged their weapons, striking Mr. Kennedy five times, were justified in their actions and that no criminal charges will be filed against any of the officers. In reaching this conclusion, my staff and I carefully reviewed the applicable law and thoroughly examined all the evidence, including but not limited to:

  • Police reports
  • 9-1-1- calls
  • Statements from those involved
  • Witness accounts
  • Physical evidence
  • Photographs
  • Cellular phone correspondence

On October 8, 2019, at approximately 12:23 a.m., Addison police were dispatched to 1433 West Fullerton Avenue for a well-being check of a suicidal subject. Officer Johnston and another officer of the Addison Police Department were the first to respond to the scene where they observed John Kennedy seated in his car texting while a gun was visible in the center console of his car. The officers were aware that the defendant was suicidal. Sergeant Bjes and Officer Baquero arrived at the scene and all of the officers attempted to convince Kennedy to get out of the car. Despite multiple attempts by the officers to “let them help” and multiple orders to Kennedy not to touch the weapon, John Kennedy abruptly raised the weapon and shot himself in the right temple. Officers positioned around the vehicle feared for their own safety as well as that of their fellow officers and discharged their weapons, striking John Kennedy about the body three times as well as causing graze wounds to the hand, arm and abdomen. Sergeant Bjes fired his weapon five times, Officer Baquero fired his weapon one time and Officer Johnston fired one time. John Kennedy’s weapon was recovered from the floor of his vehicle immediately under his right hand, where he dropped the weapon after shooting himself. John Kennedy tested positive both for alcohol and THC. Prior to his death, John Kennedy sent numerous messages to people in his life indicating that he was going to commit suicide. The self-inflicted gunshot was the cause of John Kennedy’s death.

The above facts have been evaluated in the context of Illinois law governing the justifiable use of deadly force. In accordance with Illinois law, my staff and I have reviewed the facts and circumstances of the case with special consideration given to the perspective of the officer on the scene. It is important to remember that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the appropriate amount of force necessary to bring a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situation under control.

The law of the State of Illinois as it applies to the use of force in this matter is set forth as follows:

   720 ILCS 5/7-1 Use of force in defense of person

            (a) A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.  However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.

720 ILCS 5/12-1 Assault

A person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he or she knowingly engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.

   720 ILCS 5/12-2(b) (4.1) Aggravated Assault

A person commits aggravated assault when, in committing an assault, he or she knows the individual assaulted to be a peace officer, fireman, emergency management worker, or emergency medical personnel:

  • (i)performing his or her official duties;
  • (ii)assaulted to prevent performance of his or her official duties; or
  • (iii)assaulted in retaliation for performing his or her official duties.

   The "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 389 at 396 (1989). "[H]owever, the 'reasonableness' inquiry in an excessive-force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers' actions are 'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Graham, 490 U.S. at 397. When John Kennedy refused to get out of the car and then without warning grabbed his handgun, began to raise it towards the front of the vehicle and discharged his firearm, he created a circumstance that made the officers’ discharge of their weapons reasonable.

John Kennedy’s statements and text messages clearly evidence the fact that he was suicidal.  The way John Kennedy armed himself and brandished the weapon created a reasonable belief in the minds of the officers that he was going to fire the weapon. The actions of the officers were reasonable considering the totality of the circumstances. Given the violent actions of John Kennedy, Kennedy’s refusal to obey repeated police commands and his action with the handgun, it was reasonable for Officer Johnston, Sergeant Bjes and Officer Baquero to believe John Kennedy was attempting to shoot them or other Addison police officers and that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or the other officers. Therefore, it is the conclusion of my office that Officer Johnston, Officer Baquero and Sergeant Bjes acted lawfully and were justified in using deadly force when they fired their guns and shot John Kennedy.

All of the Addison Police Officers involved in this incident should be commended for their professionalism during this extremely tense incident. Their concern for the safety and well-being of not only John Kennedy, but their fellow officers and the public at large, as well as their efforts to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner is a testament to the excellent training they receive from the Addison Police Department. Unfortunately, Mr. Kennedy’s failure to obey the officers’ commands and his threatening behavior resulted in the officers discharging their weapons.

I would like to thank the DuPage County MERIT Public Integrity Team for conducting a thorough and independent investigation, as well as Assistant State’s Attorney Nancy Donahoe for her valuable assistance.”