No Criminal Charges For Naperville Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Hatchet Wielding Man

dashcam police car image of man charging officer with hatchet
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DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin says the Naperville police officer who fatally shot a man that charged him with a hatchet was justified in his actions and will not face criminal charges. Berlin made the announcement today in a statement from his office, after reviewing an independent investigation into the matter.

The Incident

The MERIT Public Integrity Team conducted the investigation into the June 3 incident. At around 11:10 a.m. that day, Naperville Police Officer Frank Tonkovich was in the midst of conducting a traffic stop after seeing a black Honda Civic disobey a stop sign at the intersection of Bond Street and McDowell Road. During the stop, a silver Ford Fusion unrelated to the original traffic infringement pulled up and stopped next to the pulled over vehicle. A man later identified as Edward Samaan, 28, then exited that car, charging at the officer while holding a hatchet in his right hand.

According to the statement from Berlin, Officer Tonkovich said in his report on the incident, “when Edward Samaan abruptly stopped his vehicle next to me, he had a crazed look in his eyes. He exited from his vehicle in an aggressive manner with a hatchet and immediately and violently charged at me.” Tonkovich also reportedly wrote that he “’fear[ed] for my life” and the “life of (the driver of the Honda Civic).”

Tonkovich fired six shots at Samaan, who was hit by five of them. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“Justifiable Use of Deadly Force”

“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,” said Berlin in the statement. “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.”

Berlin said the investigative team reviewed pertinent laws as well as evidence including police reports, witness statements, first-hand accounts from those involved, site visits, and physical evidence including shell casings and the hatchet. They also reviewed body-worn camera video and in car squad video of the incident, both of which were released to the public.

“It was reasonable for Officer Tonkovich to believe Edward Samaan was trying to kill him and/or the motorist he had lawfully stopped, and that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or others,” said Berlin. “Therefore, based on the results of an incredibly thorough investigation by the MERIT Public Integrity Team, it is the conclusion of my Office that Officer Tonkovich acted lawfully under Illinois Statutes and was justified in using deadly force when he fired his service weapon and shot Edward Samaan.”

Professionalism Commended

Berlin commended the responding Naperville police officers for their professionalism during the situation. “Their concern for the safety and well-being of Edward Samaan after he had been shot is a testament to the excellent training they received from the Naperville Police Department,” said Berlin. “Our sympathies, condolences and thoughts go out to the family of Edward Samaan as they grieve the loss of a loved one.”

Naperville News 17’s Kim Pirc reports.

photo courtesy: handout, Naperville Police Department

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