ST. LOUIS — The murder trial of Stephan Cannon will rely on a key witness and surveillance footage to determine whether jurors believe Cannon shot and killed retired St. Louis police Capt. David Dorn two summers ago while Dorn was trying to stop looters from pillaging a pawn shop.
During the first day of Cannon’s murder trial on Monday, prosecutors said Cannon fired 10 pistol shots outside the pawn shop, killing Dorn; Cannon’s lawyer said the only evidence directly connecting Cannon to Dorn’s death is a witness who the lawyer claims told investigators he would “say pretty much anything” to avoid being charged with murder himself. The witness is set to testify on Tuesday.
Dorn, 77, was shot and killed outside Lee’s Jewelry and Pawn shop on June 2, 2020, when he showed up to stop looters from ransacking the store of TVs and other items. His killing happened amid protests, violence and destruction that spread across the city and the nation after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. Dorn’s death garnered attention nationwide, including from the White House, as the country grappled with a racial reckoning reignited by Floyd’s murder.
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“Our streets were ravaged with looters, with chaos, a pain set ablaze,” Chief Trial Assistant Marvin Teer told jurors in opening statements Monday. “With that legitimate pain came acts, many of which are unconscionable.”
Cannon, 26, of Glasgow Village, is charged with first-degree murder and several other felonies stemming from the fatal break-in at Lee’s, 4123 Martin Luther King Drive.
Defense lawyer Brian Horneyer told jurors on Monday that the state’s only witness tying Cannon to Dorn’s killing is Mark Jackson, 24, a man arrested once years earlier with Cannon, who promised to testify to avoid a murder conviction.
Police focused on Jackson after finding his ID and debit card inside the pawn shop, Horneyer said. He argued Monday that no physical evidence put Cannon at the pawn shop and that Jackson told police during an interrogation, “You tell me what to say and I will say it. I’ll witness whatever you want me to witness.”
Jackson is charged with multiple felonies, including robbery, burglary and second-degree murder. Jackson’s lawyer told the Post-Dispatch that Jackson will testify he drove Cannon to the pawn shop but didn’t know he had a gun. Jackson also will testify that he drove Cannon after the shooting and that Cannon later admitted to killing Dorn.
Teer said Monday that Dorn was hit by four of Cannon’s bullets and that surveillance showed Cannon firing a gun outside. Police released surveillance imagery of looters scavenging the shop the night Dorn died, Teer said, and Cannon sheared off his dreadlocks and showed off his new look on social media.
Cannon was seen on surveillance entering the store with others, police have said. Once Dorn arrived at the store, Cannon walked toward the street corner with a gun in hand. Cannon, police said, was the only person on the corner at the time shots were fired. After Dorn fell, Cannon approached the store’s front door and a witness told police someone yelled for everyone to leave.
One of the state’s first witnesses Monday was Dorn’s wife, Ann Dorn, a former city police officer of 28 years. She testified that she learned of her husband’s death when the police chief came to her front door that morning to deliver the news. She described her husband as “a dedicated policeman and public servant for 43 years” who routinely checked on burglar alarms at Lee’s because he was a longtime friend of the store’s owner. Ann Dorn visited the White House after her husband’s death and spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention in support of former President Donald Trump’s reelection bid.
Jurors spent much of Monday watching several video clips of the shop’s interior and exterior surveillance video that showed dozens of looters going in and out of the shop. Prosecutors highlighted two people seen inside and then outside the shop — one holding a pistol and the other a long rifle. The video did not record Dorn’s shooter firing a gun but showed flower planters being peppered with bullets and Dorn collapsing to the sidewalk.
Lawyers elicited testimony from evidence technicians and a firearms expert about multiple 9mm shell casings found on the street corner outside the pawn shop and near Dorn’s body. One shell casing from a high-velocity rifle was found just inside a fence around the corner from the entrance to Lee’s. A gun expert said the 9mm shells were fired from the same gun and that the other was fired from a rifle. A police detective testified to extracting data from Jackson’s cellphone, which Horneyer pointed out showed no records of contact with Cannon going back to 2019.
Dorn retired from St. Louis police in 2007 after 38 years and also served for six years as the police chief in Moline Acres.
Cannon’s murder trial before Circuit Judge Theresa C. Burke is expected to run through the week.