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Jury finds man guilty of killing retired St. Louis police Captain David Dorn

Retired Capt. David Dorn was killed in June 2020 while trying to protect a pawn shop from looters

ST. LOUIS — No forensic evidence connecting their man to the crime scene or the getaway car.

No murder weapon.

And no witness saying they saw Stephan Cannon, 26, fire the shots that killed retired St. Louis Police Capt. David Dorn outside a pawn shop he was trying to protect June 2, 2020.

Yet a jury took just three hours to find Cannon guilty Wednesday of all six counts – including first-degree murder.

“Dave was with me the whole time, I felt his presence,” said Dorn’s widow, St. Louis Sgt. Ann Dorn as she wept outside the courthouse following the verdict.

Cannon’s mother and sister ran out of the courtroom after the judge read the first-degree murder verdict and could be heard screaming in the hallway. His mother went back in the courtroom only to yell, “Ya’ll are (expletives)” before slamming the large wooden door to the courtroom. Another member of Cannon’s supporters flashed the middle finger at the Dorn family as she walked past them following the verdict.

Ann Dorn and the rest of Dorn’s supporters didn’t react, but she reflected on the moment later.

“I have heart-felt sympathy for them,” she said. “Nobody wins in this. I lost David and now they’re losing a brother and a son, and I feel sorry for them. My heart goes out to them as well because they’ve lost too.”

The jury deliberated for about three hours Wednesday. In addition to the murder charge, they found him guilty of five additional charges including armed criminal action, first-degree robbery, two counts of armed criminal action and first-degree burglary.

He will be sentenced on all charges Sept. 13. The first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner attended two days of the three-day trial. 

She issued a statement, which read: "Based on the cooperation of an outraged St. Louis community, a collaboration with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, charges were issued, and the case was taken to trial. Today a jury found Mr. Stephan Cannon guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and three counts of armed criminal action for the tragic death of former SLMPD Capt. David Dorn. While nothing can bring Capt. Dorn back to his loved ones, Mr. Cannon has been held accountable for his crimes committed in the City of St. Louis, and justice has been served."

In all, prosecutors called 14 witnesses to the stand – one of whom Chief Trial Assistant Marvin Teer asked the judge to recall Wednesday morning even though he had rested the state’s case Tuesday.

Defense attorneys objected, but Judge Theresa Counts Burke sided with the prosecution to recall Elicia Beavers to the stand.

Beavers testified Tuesday that Cannon lived with her and her boyfriend at the time of the murder.

Beavers struggled Tuesday to look at Cannon when prosecutors asked her to identify him, not wanting to point at him and wavered on whether she felt pressured to identify Cannon to police after they came to her apartment and she let them search her living room.

Bailiffs led a man and a woman out of the courtroom during Beavers’ testimony who were accused of gesturing while she was on the stand. The same two people were also accused of doing so during testimony from the state’s key witness Mark Jackson, who is accused of being the getaway driver and identified Cannon as the shooter.

On Wednesday, Teer asked Beavers whether she remembered telling police she knew Cannon was the man in the surveillance images because of his square-shaped earring, how he told her “it went down at Lee’s Pawn Shop” after he got home that night, and how Cannon cut his dreads after the looting took place. Police released surveillance images of the shooter to the public following the shooting, which showed him with long dreads.

Beavers told Teer she didn’t remember what she said for virtually every question he asked, so he played the audio from her interview with homicide detectives in which she made those statements.

One of Cannon’s public defenders, Adofo Minka, peppered Beavers with questions about whether she felt pressured or intimidated by police to identify Cannon as the man in the surveillance images.

“You didn't go to the police by yourself did you?” Minka asked.

“No,” she said.

“You didn't want to go down there?” he asked.

“No,” she said.

“And this was after the police came to your house and you had watched them tackle and arrest Stephan Cannon?” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

“The same day you said you ran into your apartment where you had a baby when the police came,” he asked.

“Correct,” she said.

“Were the officers dressed in SWAT uniforms? Did they have guns? Protective things on like a vest?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And you didn't feel like you had a choice on whether or not to let them in,” Manko asked.

“No,” she said.

Beavers allowed police to search only her living room that day where Cannon lived and slept on a mattress on her floor. They found a bag containing his dreadlocks and a Nike satchel with a gun and cellphone inside. It was not the murder weapon, but one of two guns Cannon could be seen holding in a Facebook post he made five days before the murder.

The defense then opened and closed its case Wednesday in less than an hour after calling two evidence technicians and a DNA expert to the stand. The witnesses showed how there wasn’t a “trace” of Cannon found among the samples they collected and tested for DNA and fingerprints, Horneyer said.

Teer began the state's closing argument telling the jury the trial boiled down to one word: Deliberation.

The time Cannon took to walk to the Pontiac G6 he rode in to get a gun and every one of the 10 shots he fired at Dorn represented that deliberation, Teer said.

“He then took jurors through a series of facts and fiction, some of which included:

Fact: Just sitting in car doesn't leave DNA

Fiction: The defense wants you to believe the long gun owner is the real killer

Fact: None of the wounds indicate any kind of long gun was shot

Fiction: Some other person shot and killed him

Fact: Wash the car one time, wipe it down, it's not there."

In his closing argument, Senior Public Defender Brian Horneyer ripped into the state’s lack of evidence against his client, saying prosecutors had only an anonymous tip that came into Crimestoppers identifying Mark Jackson and Stephan Cannon as the people in the suspect's car that night.

"Crimestoppers can be helpful in some investigations, but it can also be dangerous," Horneyer said, adding that tipsters can get paid for their information and remain anonymous.

Horneyer also tore into Mark Jackson’s credibility. He's been accused of being the getaway driver, and is expecting to get a reduced sentence in exchange for his testimony against Cannon.

"Mark Jackson lies as much as he breathes," Horneyer said.

Horneyer asked the jurors to keep their emotions in check as they deliberated.

Dorn was gunned down outside Lee’s Pawn Shop during the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd.

"What we have seen this week is a textbook case on how to convict an innocent man," Horneyer said. "We have a high-profile crime, an unfortunate death of a police captain, an incident which is wrapped up in the George Floyd protests and politics on both sides of the aisle that makes national news for days.

"Police rush to get a suspect as quickly as they can and develop tunnel vision and they make an arrest and charge Cannon."

He concluded by saying, "Don't let the tragedy of this man's death be compounded by convicting an innocent man."

Teer took one more pass at the jury before they got the case, saying if Jackson was going to lie, he should have made up a better lie other than saying Cannon was in his car with him that night.

"He should have said I saw a gun and I saw him shoot," Teer said.

Teer also said "the streets" turned Cannon in and referred to a Facebook live recording someone made of Dorn's final breaths as people around him shouted, "We don't do this! This ain't us!"

"You know you really did something wrong when the streets come in on you. And the streets came in on Stephan Cannon right away. We played the Facebook video so you know what the streets said," Teer said.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed to dismiss one of the jurors and replace her with an alternate juror. That removed the only Black man from the jury, and left nine women, two of whom were Black, and three white men to decide Cannon’s fate.

About two hours into their deliberations, jurors asked for two photos. One was the still image Beavers used to identify Cannon from surveillance footage. The other was the Facebook post Cannon made of himself holding two guns.

An hour after that, they returned to the courtroom and handed their verdict to the judge.

A tearful Teer listened as the verdict was read and his co-counsel on the case, Rob Huq, put his hand on Teer's arm. 

"Nobody wins," Teer said. "It's sad, but at least there's some closure for David and his family."

Horneyer said his client asked that he not comment. 

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