Alaskan family of police force veteran slain in St. Louis reflects on life and legacy
For one Alaskan family, mourning is not only in widespread solidarity for George Floyd, a middle-aged black man who
after three Minneapolis Police Department officers kneeled on him -- one of which was one his neck -- until and after he’d become unresponsive.
The family is now also grieving the loss of one of their own loved ones, former police chief and Capt. David Dorn, a 40-plus-year veteran of the Missouri police force who was shot and killed during a violent protest in St. Louis on Tuesday.
“I feel like part of me has been taken away, I really do,” said Christine McQueen, Dorn's sister. “That was my brother. We’re a year apart.
“I didn’t believe it,” she added. “I said, ‘No, it’s not true.’ I guess I’m not accepting it right now, I don’t know.”
The events that have developed over the last week and a half - including the horrifying killing of Floyd, which sparked uprising across the United States - may have seemed somewhat far away from Alaska, with only non-violent demonstrations having thus far made appearances in the state. The pain and suffering behind the many events in cities across America, however, remains a reality for people around the world - Alaska included - and has hit home for millions, becoming exponentially worse this week for Dorn’s family.
“It’s been very devastating for the whole family,” said Rhonda Steele, whose husband is Dorn’s nephew. “My husband looked up to him. He was a pillar of his community. And to have something like that happen is just – really hits close to home.”
Dorn, 77, spent 38 years with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and served for five more years as a police chief in nearby Moline Acres. He was among a group that responded to an alarm and reported looting at his friend’s pawn shop during a riot in St. Louis early Tuesday,
“All of this because people decided to steal and break windows,” Chief John Hayden, of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, said of violent protestors and vandals early Tuesday. “That's all they are doing. So I don't understand what that has to do with Mr. Floyd's death.”
During the incident at the pawn shop, Dorn was shot, police said, with four officers currently serving with the department also injured by gunfire on the same night.
“I understand how people feel about what happened,” McQueen said of Floyd’s death. “I feel the same way: It shouldn’t have happened. But to do the things they’re doing now, it just don’t make no sense.”
The four current St. Louis officers hit Tuesday were struck mostly in extremities and survived their injuries, but Dorn wasn’t so fortunate.
“It hurts my heart, it really does,” McQueen said.
During a press conference later in the day Tuesday, Hayden reacted to the news of Dorn's death.
"During a looting, David Dorn was exercising law enforcement training that he learned here (at SLMPD)," he said, "so in his honor, we are wearing our mourning bands.
"We would hope that you all will pray for them as well," he continued, "as we go through this crisis."
, Hayden also called Dorn "a fine captain," saying many of the younger officers looked up to him.
"So very well-liked and very pleasant," he said. "And his wife still works here, so a very sad time for our agency. We will honor him."
An onlooker captured much of the pawn shop shooting on camera, sharing it live via Facebook. The viral video, which has since been taken down, was how part of his family first learned about his death.
“I still don’t want to believe it,” McQueen said. “I know it’s true, but it’s hard. I mean, he was just a great person, and I don’t understand why he would be taken the way he was.”
The Anchorage Police Department on Wednesday expressed condolences for the Dorn family in a written statement.
“Any time we hear about a loss of life within the blue family, whether it’s near or far, we are saddened by the news,” officials wrote. “Our sincere condolences go out the Dorn family, both blood and blue, and especially to the captain’s sister who is a fellow Alaskan. We wish them peace and God Speed as they move forward.”
St. Louis police said no fewer than 25 people were arrested and charged for various crimes early Tuesday, and at least 55 businesses were burglarized the same night.
Dorn’s killer is still being sought, with St. Louis police yet to announce a suspect.
To contribute to a fundraiser started in the family’s name - the legitimacy of which has been confirmed by Steele -