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Article updated: 4/3/2013 4:58 PM

Man shot at Vernon Hills police station wanted to die, cops say

By Russell Lissau Lee Filas

A Vernon Hills police officer shot a man armed with a realistic-looking, fake handgun early Wednesday after a brief standoff at the police station, authorities said.

The gunman, identified as 53-year-old Howard R. Lazarus of Mundelein, was wounded in the abdomen. Authorities later found a handwritten suicide note in his pocket, and police believe he went to the station to die.

"The subject was asking to be shot by the officer," said Officer Sharon Joseph, the department's spokeswoman.

Lazarus, of the 0-100 block of North Bristol Court, has been charged with felony aggravated assault. He was in fair condition Wednesday at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, authorities said.

His wound was not believed to be life threatening, Joseph said. She had no information about Lazarus' history or personal life.

The confrontation occurred just after midnight in the lobby of the police station on Lakeview Parkway. Lazarus chose the station rather than his hometown police headquarters because he's familiar with the area and knew where it is, Joseph said.

Lazarus had told police he had been involved in an accident and wanted to file a report, Joseph said. Police later learned there was no accident.

"He had parked his car nearby and walked here," Joseph said.

The officer who shot Lazarus arrived in the lobby and determined the supposed crash had happened in Mundelein. After he offered to drive Lazarus to the Mundelein police station, Lazarus drew a gun from a coat pocket and pointed it at the officer, Joseph said.

After taking cover behind a wall, the officer tried to negotiate with Lazarus, Joseph said. When Lazarus pulled back the slide on his gun -- a replica that looked like a 9 mm pistol -- the officer fired two shots at him, police said.

"The officer had no choice," Joseph said of the 14-year veteran.

One shot hit Lazarus. The other shattered two glass doors in the lobby.

The note in Lazarus' pocket said he was dying from cancer and "couldn't do the deed myself," authorities said. Joseph said she didn't know if Lazarus actually is ill.

The officer, whose name is not being released, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, which is department policy, Joseph said. He was resting at home Wednesday, she said.

It was the first officer-involved shooting in the village's history.

Police department dispatchers were in the building near the confrontation but were protected by bulletproof glass and weren't in danger, Joseph said. The confrontation, which Joseph said lasted "a matter of seconds," was captured on security video cameras, and that footage will be reviewed.

The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force is investigating.

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