Hours after retired St. Louis police Capt. David Dorn was murdered by a looter, his heartbroken nephew went ahead with plans to join the 60,000 who marched in Houston protesting the murder of George Floyd.
The nephew, 30-year-old Houston rapper A.J. McQueen, wrote on Instagram, “Today while grieving the death of my Uncle I marched in solidarity for George Floyd in Houston. In my darkest moments all I tell myself is ‘I gotta keep moving.’ I don’t know if that’s healthy or not but it’s all I know. IDK how to stop, I feel like I’ll go crazy or something if I do. So I keep going… hoping that somehow my heart will heal if I try to be there for others.”
McQueen got the news of Dorn’s death before the June 2 march and saw it as all the more reason to join the protest. McQueen knew Dorn to have been a dedicated protector of those he was sworn to serve, the kind of cop every cop should be. McQueen has no doubt that Floyd would still be alive if a Minneapolis equivalent of Dorn had been present.
“For sure,” McQueen told The Daily Beast. “If there had been an Officer Dorn there…”
McQueen also knows that the only connection looters have to the protests is that of opportunists driven by larceny. The 24-year-old now charged with gunning down Dorn outside a looted pawn shop was not marching for justice. Nor was whoever streamed the killing live on Facebook.
Along with the protest in Houston, McQueen would likely also have attended Monday’s viewing for Floyd, but the rapper had to prepare for a trip to St. Louis. Retired captain David Dorn and George Floyd were both scheduled to be buried on Tuesday.
“Same day, exactly same day,” McQueen told The Daily Beast. “My heart’s torn in a lot of different places.”
McQueen grieved Dorn as a champion for those in most need of protection and assistance.
“Speaking up and defending the oppressed,” McQueen said. “He definitely served the community. He definitely helped clean up the street, clean up the neighborhood.”
In Dorn’s view, a neighborhood’s police commander should also be a community leader. McQueen said Dorn worked with a host of community organizations and mentored generations of young people during his 38 years with the St. Louis Police Department.
“He was a model,” McQueen said. “An example.”
Back in 1992, Dorn assisted a public safety effort by Dick Gregory, the comedian and activist who had been close to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights era. Gregory had gone on to organize a citizens’ Dignity Patrol that walked with cameras for more than 200 successive nights along a stretch known as “The Stroll” that remained the turf of drug dealers and prostitutes despite Dorn’s best efforts as the local police commander.
“People are just getting tired of the crime,” Dorn was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying regarding Gregory’s campaign.
McQueen himself became a crime victim at the age of 15, when a brief involvement with gangs ended with him being shot and seriously wounded. He survived to become a Houston-based entrepreneur and a rapper focused on positive messages. He received a White House Service Achievement Award from President Obama in 2013. He also was given a Certificate of Congressional Recognition by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that same year. Mayor Sylvester Turner declared July 13 in 2019 to be A.J. McQueen Day.
In the meantime, McQueen marched in a series of racial justice protests, including those following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Florida.
“I’ve been to all of them,” McQueen said.
Then came the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. McQueen did not have an opportunity to speak with Dorn about Floyd’s murder, but he is sure his uncle would have been as horrified as would be any decent cop.
At dawn on June 2, McQueen was awoken by a phone call from his older sister. The only other times she had called him so early was when their father died in 2016 and when their 18-year-old nephew was shot three times and died while trapped by a seatbelt in a burning vehicle during a 2019 carjacking.
“By the tremble in her voice and by the hour, I knew it was something bad,” he recalled. “I was just waiting for her to tell me who.”
She told him their uncle had been shot to death when he went to check on a friend’s pawn shop.
“He wasn’t even going there as a cop,” McQueen later said. “He was going as a person who cared about the community. That is what he stood by. He stood by his ideals and his integrity.”
When McQueen joined the protest hours later, he did not take it as a march against all cops.
“It goes without saying we’re talking about the bad ones,” McQueen said.
He ascribes the blanket anti-cop rhetoric to high emotions.
“Especially when you are angry, a lot of people don’t know how to articulate,” he said.
McQueen posted a photo of his uncle in uniform on Instagram, writing that he felt he would go crazy if he did not just keep moving and that he hoped he would find healing in seeking to heal others.
“A lot of people asked me at the protest if I was gonna speak or say something,” he added. “No, I wasn’t there for that. I wasn’t asked to… It’s not always about being seen or heard but it is about being felt. Today they felt us.”
Also on that day, President Trump posted the very same photo of Dorn in uniform. Trump tweeted:
“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!”
McQueen reacted as might be expected as someone who had been honored by Obama and knew his uncle to stand for truth and actual justice.
“I said, ‘What?’ What’s going on?’” he recalled.
McQueen’s torn heart will also be at Floyd’s funeral in Houston as he attends Dorn’s funeral in St. Louis.
McQueen will then return to Houston, where he will continue making music, some of it raps furthering a bottled water company he has launched.
“We’re made of water,” he noted. “We should definitely drink more water.”
And he will continue his efforts to further racial justice. He will retain his uncle as a guiding spirit in all regards.
McQueen said of Dorn in contrast with the tweeter-in-chief, “My uncle was a man who spoke with his actions.”
McQueen then summed up Dorn with four simple words that made his uncle somebody such as we should all want out in the streets.
“He was a good cop.”