St. Paul community members split on decision to fire officer

Members of the St. Paul community are lamenting the firing of a well-respected St. Paul Police Officer after a Saturday night shooting of a violent suspect, but others say his actions cannot be justified.

Kevin Barrett is a long-time ice cream shop owner in St. Paul’s North End neighborhood. His business is right across the street from where Officer Anthony Dean shot a suspect Saturday night.

“When I found out officer Dean was fired, my heart just stopped,” said Barrett. “It was just so sad.”

Barrett described the situation he overheard as a no-win situation for police as the wanted suspect hid in a dumpster. He is upset that Dean is out of a job for his actions that night when he opened fire on 31-year-old Joseph Washington.

He said officer Dean was a familiar and comforting presence along Rice Street.

“When someone cares so much for our neighborhood like this, it’s a hard neighborhood,” said Barrett. “He just looked at things a little differently from a lot of the other cops. Very gentle.”

Others in the community, however, say Dean was completely wrong in using deadly force in that tense moment when Washington left the dumpster.

“The man was unarmed and naked,” said Pastor Richard Pittman, the acting president of the NAACP-St. Paul.

He acknowledges the horrifying charges Washington is facing for his actions, involving the sexual assault of an ex-girlfriend earlier that night, but he insists nothing justifies firing at a naked, unarmed suspect.

“A dog was released on a naked man,” Pittman said. “He was inundated with a Taser. And then proceeded to be shot by one of the officers with a gun which is unquestionably unacceptable.”