Teen charged in death of veteran who died from assault injuries

(FOX 9)

An 18-year-old man who was 17 when he allegedly punched a 76-year-old Vietnam veteran is now charged with first-degree manslaughter after the veteran died about a month after the assault. 

The teen is accused of punching Thomas Dunne twice during a confrontation at Harriet Island Park on Jan. 28. Dunne later died from his injuries, according to an autopsy from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office. His death was ruled a homicide, and prosecutors subsequently upgraded the criminal charges from assault to manslaughter. 

A juvenile petition states that St. Paul police responded to a reported assault at Harriet Island Park just before 5 p.m. 

Officers then found Dunne standing next to his car with blood streaming from his right eye socket and called medics to the scene. 

The petition states that Dunne told officers he saw a man urinating in public and used his phone to take a picture. That a male and two others then approached Dunne and tried to take his phone. One of them then punched him during the confrontation. 

A witness also reported seeing the same version of events. 

Police found the three males and asked if they were involved in a fight. That’s when the accused teen said "Yeah, that was me," according to the petition. 

All three were detained, but the accused teen declined to say anything else after being read his Miranda rights.

One of the males told police they confronted Dunne because they believed he was recording them and added that Dunne should have "minded his business."

Another male admitted to urinating in the pond after not being able to find a bathroom. He added that the accused teen said "Let’s get to it," before punching Dunne, according to the petition. 

Hospital records state Dunne’s injuries included multiple facial fractures and traumatic damage to his right eye. 

Though he was discharged the next day, Dunne returned on Feb. 3 to be treated for complications that included an infection related to those injuries. 

Dunne was placed on a ventilator on Feb. 13, but died on Feb. 23. 

According to his obituary, Dunne was born in Ireland and came to the U.S. at age 2. He served two tours of service in Vietnam and later joined the Army National Guard. He ended his career with 28 years of military service.

Dunne contributed to the Veterans History Project, sharing memories of his service in Vietnam.