Captain David Dorn is not a name known to most of us.
Dorn, a retired St. Louis police captain, was killed in the rioting following the death of George Floyd. Yet while much of the national media has chosen to ignore the resulting trial and (shockingly quick) guilty verdict, his killing highlights many of the same issues as the Jose Alba case in New York. And it demonstrates what happens when a city’s prosecutor abdicates her role — and the people push back.
A quick summary of the facts: in the aftermath of the Floyd killing, the St. Louis area experienced three days of demonstrations, rioting, and looting. Buildings were set afire. Four police officers were shot. And 77-year-old David Dorn, retired after 38 years with St. Louis PD, went to a friend’s pawn shop to guard it against looters. Where he was shot four times, dying at the scene, as the looters descended on the store.
The law enforcement response to the unrest was telling. The police made 36 arrests, despite being badly outnumbered and having four colleagues shot. All 36 were released by Prosecutor Kim Gardner’s office.
You may recall Gardner. She is the prosecutor who insisted on charging Mark and Patricia McCloskey for standing on their front lawn while brandishing guns in response to BLM marchers who were trespassing on private property. Gardner’s handling of the incident was so egregious, the judge barred her office from handling the case. The lead case detective refused to sign prosecution charging documents. Her office dropped all charges against the protestors.
And yes, her election campaign was funded by George Soros.
A simple fact of detective work is that it often hinges on informants. Cases turn far more often on information given by arrestees than by any “ah-hah!” moments provided by ballistics or other forensics.
Yet with no one in custody following the riots, police had nobody to debrief. Furthermore, their leverage was gone; the prosecutor’s office had clearly signaled little interest in making cases.
So, while no arrests were achieved on the four cop shootings, police got lucky on the Dorn murder. Recovered at the scene was the identification of a man named Mark Jackson. They picked up Jackson, who named a friend, Stephan Cannon, as the shooter.
Cannon was known to St. Louis police. Released on 2013 robbery and assault charges, he faced a seven-year sentence if he violated probation. Which he reportedly did, in 2018. Instead of revoking probation, the judge sentenced him to … continued probation. In 2020, not long before the Dorn murder, he was again arrested on a theft charge.
As a result of video evidence gathered at the pawn shop coupled with Jackson’s statements, St. Louis PD arrested Cannon for Dorn’s murder. Cannon chose to take the case to trial.
One thing must be made clear: This was not the Jose Alba case. The evidence was nowhere near as clear and compelling. While video placed Cannon at the scene and armed with a handgun, it did not show him shooting Dorn. And while police recovered a .22 caliber pistol from Cannon’s effects, testimony at trial suggested a larger caliber weapon may have killed Dorn (the fatal bullets appear not to have been recovered, and possibly exited Dorn’s body).
Even Jackson’s testimony was problematic. In the same interview in which he accused Cannon, he stated, “you tell me what to say and I will say it. I’ll witness whatever you want me to witness.”
None of that mattered. The jury was out just three hours before coming in with a verdict of guilty, all counts.
But even with Cannon’s guilty verdict, larger questions linger. Why was Cannon not jailed on his probation violation? Did the DA’s office request it? Why were all the protestors immediately released?
And perhaps most of all: Why did Gardner’s office try to avoid prosecuting the Dorn case at all?
Yes, Gardner, the lead prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, petitioned the judge to recuse her from the case and appoint a special prosecutor, claiming her office was “overburdened.”
Overburdened? As in, too busy to prosecute the highest-profile case of your career? The murder of an African-American career law enforcement officer who was helping out a friend? It is not an overstatement to say she should have handled the case personally — as district attorneys often do in cases of such magnitude.
When the judge laughed this request out of court — noting that it should not even have been made to him, but to the governor — Gardner hired an outside attorney to come in and handle the case. It was this prosecutor, Marvin Teer, a retired judge who hadn’t tried a case in over two decades, who got it over the finish line.
In light of this of all this, the question must arise: Was the jury sending a message? Is this rapid verdict — taken together with the recall of Chesa Boudin and the dropping of the Jose Alba case in New York — a sign that urban constituents of America’s woke prosecutors have finally had enough?
Only the jurors know for sure. But what is clear is that when prosecutors morph their roles from law enforcement to legal “reformers” — a role our system delegates to legislators — a spirit of anarchy descends. And as we’re seeing across the nation, the body counts rise.
Currently, St. Louis is the only U.S. city ranked in the top 20 “most dangerous cities” globally, and its current murder rate is potentially even higher than reported. And while the Dorn case is resolved, the shootings of the four police officers the night of his murder remain unsolved. Most of the national media has taken little interest in that or the Dorn case.
What’s also clear is that David Dorn, who worked his entire adult life on the side of law and order, didn’t deserve to die when that order was allowed to break down. He deserved a quiet retirement with his wife. And the country should know the man’s name.