ST. LOUIS — During his 38 years with St. Louis police, Capt. David Dorn was known for putting in extra effort: He volunteered for difficult calls and wasn’t afraid to chase down a suspect on foot. That’s one reason why he and his partner led all other officers in arrests in the early 1980s, former colleagues said.
Dorn was remembered by a crowd of nearly 100 people on Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of his death, as part of a ceremony at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park.
“To know David Dorn was to know what real help looked like, helping a neighbor, helping a friend, or helping a younger officer on the force,” Ethical Society of Police President Sgt. Donnell Walters said. “When you are helping somebody, you are truly doing Capt. Dorn justice.”
Dorn was a member of the ethical society, which hosted the ceremony and is an organization that lobbies for racial equity in the St. Louis and St. Louis County police departments.
Dorn, 77, was fatally shot while attempting to stop the looting of a pawn shop in the 4100 block of Martin Luther King Drive in The Ville neighborhood on June 2, 2020, following protests related to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Two men were arrested and charged with Dorn’s murder, both are awaiting trial. Two other men were charged with robbery related to looting the shop.
Dorn worked for the St. Louis police department from 1969 until his retirement in 2007. He was later the Moline Acres police chief for six years.
Dorn’s death drew the national spotlight when a day later President Donald Trump tweeted about it.
“Our highest respect to the family of David Dorn, a Great Police Captain from St. Louis, who was viciously shot and killed by despicable looters last night. We honor our police officers, perhaps more than ever before. Thank you!” Trump tweeted.
His widow, St. Louis police Sgt. Ann Dorn, spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention where she condemned the Black Lives Matter movement. Two of David Dorn’s daughters later criticized her, saying she politicized their father’s death.
“(David) has always been a huge police supporter,” Dorn said Wednesday prior to the start of the ceremony, in response to a reporter’s question. “He did not believe in what Black Lives Matter stood for and he was a big supporter of We Back the Blue.”
Several spoke at the event, including St. Louis police Chief John Hayden, former O’Fallon police Chief Roy Joachimsthaler and St. Louis public safety Director Daniel Isom. Mayor Tishaura O. Jones was also in attendance.
They shared stories of Dorn throughout his career, from when he crashed his patrol car not long after he joined the force to his time as a respected captain who many saw as a father figure and role model.
“Dave taught me and always insisted that his officers apprehended people and that we showed them dignity while being arrested,” said retired Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, who served under Dorn early in his career. Harris and Joachimsthaler later joked about using nightsticks on those who didn’t comply with police orders and resisted arrest, which drew a laugh from the crowd.
Many in the department modeled themselves after Dorn, adopting the same polished look and chrome-plated .357 Magnum handgun to emulate him, Harris said. He was known for his dedication to law enforcement, both while on the job and while working secondary security work, common for police officers.
“The first I heard of Capt. Dorn was this pursuit outside of Famous (-Barr) after a burglary suspect,” Isom said. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is a lieutenant, a sergeant, who is chasing someone on secondary?’ Secondary is a job where you want to make a little extra cash and relax, but that wasn’t David Dorn. He was a protector, he was a police officer. And no matter whether he was on duty or off duty, as we know, it was his job and his oath to protect people.”
Joachimsthaler later remarked that the burglary suspect had apparently stolen only a pair of sunglasses.
The section of Martin Luther King Drive in front of Lee’s Pawn and Jewelry, where Dorn was killed, will be named in his honor. A section of Interstate 70 will also be renamed the Capt. David Dorn Memorial Highway. State Sen. Steven Roberts Jr. and state Rep. Shamed Dogan sponsored the legislation to rename the roadways and were in attendance to present the new signs.
“He was a mentor and an encouragement to his subordinates, his peers and even his superiors. On a personal note, Capt. Dorn was a person who younger African American officers looked up to and emulated,” Chief Hayden said. “Although he retired from our department some 13 years prior, he remained a police officer, in action and in heart, until the very end.”