Westmont officer cleared in shooting of teen in BMW dealership burglary

 
 
Updated 4/5/2022 6:10 PM

A Westmont police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing in shooting a 17-year-old and another suspect in a BMW dealership burglary as their getaway car sped toward him, DuPage County prosecutors announced Tuesday.

In a written decision, DuPage State's Attorney Robert Berlin said officer Robert Arndt acted lawfully when he fired his gun 10 times at the advancing car, striking the teen driver in the chest and a 23-year-old passenger in his left arm. Both survived and have been charged, along with two other teens, in the burglary of the Ogden Avenue dealership on New Year's Eve.

 

After an investigation into the police shooting, Berlin concluded that the "officer's actions were justified, and no criminal charges will be filed against the officer." Berlin and his office reviewed police reports, surveillance video, in-car squad videos and witness accounts, among other evidence.

The 17-year-old, who has not been named because he is a minor, faces felony charges of armed violence, burglary, possession of a stolen vehicle and aggravated assault. He is now being held in the Kane County juvenile detention center and scheduled to go to trial on May 16.

Angel Martin, who was shot twice in his arm and left with a graze bullet wound to his leg, and two Chicago teens -- Semaje Wheeler, 18, and Brian Garrett, 19 -- were charged with armed violence, burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle.

At 4:27 a.m. Dec. 31, police were alerted to a report of a burglary at the Laurel BMW dealership.

While en route, officers heard the initial call from a dispatcher identify two people, "both with crowbars trying to break in," according to Berlin. The dispatcher later added the "subjects have now broken a window with a rock."

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Two uniformed officers -- Arndt and his partner -- in a ghost-marked patrol car saw a 2020 white Acura TLX near the service bay doors on the west side of the dealership. The Acura had been stolen from a Libertyville car dealership 10 days earlier, prosecutors said.

As the officers pulled in front of the Acura, they turned on their overhead emergency lights and left their patrol car with their guns drawn. Two suspects, later identified as Martin and the 17-year-old, ran from the dealership to the Acura and jumped in the car to flee, Berlin wrote.

Arndt and his partner repeatedly yelled at the suspects to stop and "get out of the car." Both officers had their weapons pointed at the juvenile driver when he refused to stop the car and comply with their commands, Berlin wrote.

He lurched the car forward and then accelerated directly at Arndt, who was standing on the driver's side and in front of the Acura, Berlin wrote.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The teen then drove the car onto the sidewalk where Arndt was, forcing him to move out of the way to avoid being struck by the Acura, Berlin wrote. At that point, the officer shot 10 times at the car.

Investigators recovered 10 spent shell casings and found evidence of eight gunshots hitting the Acura.

"Given the violent actions of the 17-year-old juvenile, his refusal to obey repeated police commands, his complete and utter disregard for the authority of the police, and his intentional act of driving a 3,505-pound vehicle at Officer Arndt," Berlin wrote, "it was reasonable for Officer Arndt to believe the 17-year-old juvenile was attempting to run him over, and that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself."

Berlin noted that under Illinois law, Arndt was not required to "retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of the 17-year-old juvenile's resistance to the arrest."

After the shooting, the teen driver sped through the dealership's parking lot, drove over a concrete parking barrier, turned east on Ogden Avenue, and then turned left to head north on Route 83, Berlin wrote. Oak Brook police took over the pursuit of the Acura, which eventually crashed over the curb and into the grass on the west side of Route 83.

All four occupants fled from the wreck on foot.

The teen was taken into custody after jumping from the second floor of the parking garage near Macy's in the Oakbrook Center mall. He was treated at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

Martin was apprehended near the Oakbrook Terrace Park District's Lake View Nature Center and taken to the same hospital for treatment of his injuries.

After obtaining a search warrant, investigators recovered four handguns -- three from inside the crashed Acura and a fourth near the driver's side, police said.

Martin was released from DuPage County jail after posting bail on Feb. 22. His co-defendants, Wheeler and Garrett, remain held in jail. They are next due in court on April 27.

• Daily Herald staff writer Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report.

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