Protesters demand criminal charges for fired officer
“No justice no peace, prosecute the police,” and “no good cops in a racist system” were among the chants heard last Friday, Dec. 4 as over 100 people marched down University Avenue in St. Paul demanding former St. Paul cop Anthony Dean be criminally charged following his November 28 shooting of Joseph Javonte Washington.
Washington was naked and unarmed at the time of the shooting and appeared to be experiencing some kind of mental crisis. Dean was fired within days of the shooting by St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell.
On the same day, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi referred the case to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
“When a county attorney asks us to take over a sensitive case—particularly when another county attorney is providing the resources, and particularly when doing so will improve public trust in the criminal-justice system—I will give that request my fullest consideration,” said Ellison in a written statement.
“The St. Paul Police Department is one of the most lethal departments in the country, in the top 20 out of 18,000,” said Touissant Morrison at the protest called by Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. The march from the police station in St. Paul’s midway to University and Lexington temporarily shut down the Metro Transit Green Line.
“This is not about what happened prior to the incident,” said Toshira Garraway in a speech to the crowd, referring to Washington’s assault on his girlfriend prior to his confrontation with the police. “Police should not add to our pain. They say they are fighting crime, but they are committing crimes.”
Dean, who opened fire while other officers did not, had been what many considered one of the good cops. He had been praised recently by Axtell for his work on the St. Paul gang unit.
Dean was named Officer of the Year in 2016 by the Minnesota American Legion. He was also given the department’s life-saving award for saving a woman trying to jump from a bridge. St. Paul Police Federation President Paul Kuntz said in a written statement that Dean had “led an exemplary career.”
Dean’s attorney, Robert Paule, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he shot the naked, unarmed Washington “to protect his fellow officers and himself.” While Dean was the only officer to open fire on the unarmed man, a 46-second video of the incident raised red flags for some.
The video captured a female officer yelling “Gun! Gun!” as Washington emerged from a dumpster where he had been hiding. In the video, officers tased Washington, which was followed by an attack by a police dog.
Officers yelled for others to cease tasing the victim because it would adversely affect the dog that was still attacking the man. The officers appeared in the video to be watching and making no attempt to assist Washington as he struggled with a gunshot wound, the tasing, and the dog that was still biting him.
Before his confrontation with police, the Lakeville man reportedly assaulted a former girlfriend in her home and using a kitchen knife forced her to drive to St, Paul. The woman said Washington grabbed the wheel, causing an accident, at which time she took the opportunity to escape. Police confronted Washington not long afterward.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.