Decorated St. Paul veteran dies weeks after attack at Harriet Island, widow says

Referencing Dunne's distinguished military service overseas, his widow said, "He'd been in all kinds of dangerous areas, and this happens in his local park?"

Tom Dunne, 76, served in the Marines, National Guard, Army Reserve, and retired with the rank of command sergeant major. (Photo provided to Alpha News)

A decorated Vietnam War veteran and retired Minnesota National Guardsman died just weeks after sustaining severe injuries from a violent attack that occurred at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul, his widow told Alpha News.

Just before 5 p.m. on Jan. 28, Tom Dunne, 76, and his wife were walking around Harriet Island in St. Paul. As the couple went to get in their car, Dunne noticed a male urinating on the sidewalk. According to a statement from the St. Paul Police Department, Dunne had just put his walker in his car and then took his phone out to take a photo of the male urinating.

Two other males in a nearby car noticed Dunne. All three males eventually approached Dunne and were angry that Dunne tried to take a photo of the male urinating in public. The three males tried to take Dunne’s phone from him before one of the males punched Dunne in the face, police said.

Helen Broderick, Dunne’s wife, told Alpha News her husband was sucker-punched and “knocked off his feet.” A witness reported seeing the assailant punch Dunne “approximately two times in the face.”

A juvenile petition filed by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says police officers found Dunne standing by his vehicle with blood “streaming from his right eye socket” when they responded to the scene. The St. Paul Police Department described Dunne’s injuries as “serious and would not stop bleeding.” Dunne was taken to Regions Hospital.

Upon assessment, Dunne received emergency ocular surgery that took over three hours. The veteran’s injuries included a ruptured right eye and multiple broken bones in his face. Dunne said he could not see at all out of his right eye. Medical staff reportedly told investigators that Dunne may permanently lose most of his ability to see through the damaged eye.

Having served in the Marines, National Guard, Army Reserve, and retiring with the rank of command sergeant major, Dunne lived a life full of service. (Photo provided to Alpha News)

Later, officers found the three males walking along the Mississippi River. One of them, 17-year-old Wyatt Doerfler, identified himself as being involved in the incident, saying, “yeah, that was me,” according to the petition.

One of the males told police that he couldn’t find a public restroom so he began urinating in a pond. The other male said they confronted Dunne because they thought he was recording them and he should have “minded his business,” the petition says.

After being released from Regions Hospital a few days later, Dunne returned home, but his condition did not improve. Dunne’s wife reported that he couldn’t eat and was in pain. On Feb. 4, the police investigator in this case was notified that Dunne “was experiencing complications which may be directly related to the injury sustained in the assault.” Dunne was readmitted to Regions Hospital.

Police said they were notified on Feb. 23, 2024, that Dunne died. His widow said he contracted sepsis.

Currently, Doerfler, who will turn 18 in March, is being charged as a juvenile with first-degree assault, a felony. An adult certification hearing is set for April 3 which will determine whether the accused will be tried as an adult.

These charges were filed before Dunne passed away. An autopsy of Dunne’s body will be conducted to determine the cause of death. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office said their office “will review any new evidence presented by law enforcement to consider additional charges.”

“There are still some questions that need to be answered in relation to this case before it can move forward,” the police department said.

After the autopsy is complete, Dunne will be laid to rest at Fort Snelling Cemetery with full military honors.

Broderick told Alpha News that she and her husband loved to walk together. Since the attack, Dunne’s widow described the last several weeks as “25 days of grief.” The pair were married for 43 years.

Having served in the Marines, National Guard, Army Reserve, and retiring with the rank of command sergeant major, Dunne lived a life full of service. Broderick said her husband would often talk about how St. Paul had become unsafe in recent years. In these conversations, Dunne would express a desire to do more to help the city.

“He was not a feeble old guy. He was in good health,” she said. “We can’t comprehend this happened.”

Referencing Dunne’s distinguished military service overseas, Broderick said, “He’d been in all kinds of dangerous areas, and this happens in his local park?”


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.