Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ron Dean, the Cop Killer That Became a Successful Actor

Chicago, IL—It was a typically hot summer Chicago day in July of 1955 when a troubled 16 year-old Ron Dean was detained in the Shakespeare District lock-up.   He wanted out and found a can opener in his cell.  With a little luck he was somehow able to open the cell door. 
Dean wandered out to the booking area and found the unoccupied desk of the lock-up keeper, Chicago police officer Albert Brown, 57.  In the desk he found Brown’s loaded service revolver.  Officer Brown surprised Dean who then shot and critically wounded the cop.
Dean was able to flee the station and Brown was removed to the Alexian Brothers Hospital where he died some ten days later. 
Two days later Dean was spotted at the North Avenue Beach where he was arrested. Brown was a juvenile and paid the low price juveniles paid for murders.  Dean was given his freedom perhaps much earlier than any cop killer would deserve.
I hate cop killers and have attended and been part of the honor guard for too many fallen officer’s funerals.  I’m still horribly haunted by the unbelievably hysterical screams of two-time police widow Johanna Crowley when she buried her second cop husband Pat Crowley in 1976.  She married and buried both cops in that same Catholic Church. Her first husband was the fallen police hero, Mike Kelly. 
Ron Dean somehow was able to turn his life around and was never again involved in that kind of sordid behavior. 
Dean found he loved acting and was lucky enough to land an agent and an acting career that began in the mid-1970’s through today.
The irony here was that Dean actually landed roles as Chicago cops!  Including one in the wildly successful Andrew Davis film, The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford.  Dean was believable in that film and worked alongside of real cops hired as extras all unaware of his shocking past.
Dean’s dark and distant past soon surfaced understandably angering many Chicago cops.  Some took it in stride and others expressed hatred for the cop killing thespian.
I have to ask; if Dean paid his debt and left his criminal past doesn’t he deserve to enjoy life with the law-abiding?  After all it’s a rare event when a criminal emerges from the dark side to become a productive citizen.
I really wonder what the surviving members of Brown’s family would have to say about this?  I also would love to land an interview with Dean. 
Can a juvenile delinquent and cop killer get forgiveness some 65 years after such a horrific crime? 
Dean is 80 years old today and has enjoyed the fruits of a thriving acting career.  I know cops universally loathe any cop killer.
Can and should Dean be recognized for turning his life around for becoming a productive and taxpaying citizen?  If not, who can?
Could Dean have done anything that would have somehow undone the damage aside from changing his ways?
Dean easily could have stayed in the abyss of career criminals.  Somehow I can forgive Dean and applaud both his acting performances and important personal achievements.   


Deek said...

He reminds me of the actor/thug Lillo Brancato Jr. who had a nice career in films like A Bronx Tale and Crimson Red, and a featured role on the Sopranos. Until, that is, he and a pal tried to break into a place for drugs and ended up shooting to death NYPD Officer Daniel Enchautegui. Brancato wasn't the gunman so he got a too-light sentence and is now on parole. Unfortunately his boycott by movie/TV producers has ended when some mob film gave him a role.

Ron Dean's merciless killing of a good cop should never be forgotten or forgiven. But if he wants to gain some forgiveness, let him go work in a coal mine for the rest of his life, and not as an actor where people treat him with respect and he has access to craft services and a cushy lifestyle. He should also have himself neutered so he will never be able to have a child since his victim will never be around to raise his own kids.

Paul Huebl Crimefile News said...

I hope I never see an 80 year old man working in a coal mine. I don't think he will be impregnating too many women theses days either. He's a working actor but by no means rich.

I'm somehow sure he's reflected on this horrible event over the last 65 years. Dean's behavior over the last six decades speaks volumes.

What he did was unspeakable. Now we must measure the remorse and life changing reality.

Anonymous said...


E Lang said...

I would never break break bread with the man but I don't think forgiveness is mine to give. Why don't you ask the Brown family?

Anonymous said...

let him go work in a coal mine for the rest of his life,


Anonymous said...

He without sin throw the 1st stone.....none of you are. He paid the price. Its over, if you think his punishment should go on for ever than lobby for the death penalty. Until than he's even with the house..

Deek said...

Anonymous, that was the point I was making. Coal miners work hard and honestly. We couldn't live without them. Actors? No, no and more no.

Anonymous said...

He paid such a small price for a family that lost a father. There is too much forgiveness out there. Always remember. Hold people accountable. I'd have been more impressed if he spent his life helping others. He didn't. He became a self involved actor.

He took the life of a man that helped his community. He gave nothing back and helped only himself. Save the 'turned his life around' for those that were truly repentant and spent the rest of their days helping others to atone.

He got away with murder with very little punishment.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article, Paul, and a total surprise to me; however, these comments are disgusting. Way to act like animals.

Unknown said...

Ron came to work for my husband and me not long after he got out of prison. He was very much a gentleman and very protective of me. Our business was in a not so good neighborhood of Chicago. As someone said....He who is without sin, let him through the first stone. It take a lot of for someone to turn themselves around.

Anonymous said...

Ron Dean,looks like Mooney- the late husband of Loretta Lynn.

Anonymous said...


I know Ron Dean from both college and everyday life around Chicago’s near north side of Chicago. Whatever his crime as a juvenile, under the law, he paid for his crime. I still consider him a friend and from 1967 until I left Chicago in 1986 I watched him developed into a excellent actor who was in normal life a laid back friendly person who never let his fame and career go to his head.

When I met him although I was aware of his criminal past, I was unaware of the severity. I can say that I understand the feelings of Chicago police officers and of course the family of the slain officer, however, I also know in my heart and from my limited association with him, he has never forgotten the hurt he caused and he was always determined to better himself.

As a Roman Catholic, I believe in forgiveness although I struggle with it, but I know Ron has changed and become a viable member of society. He also deserves to be allowed to work and better himself as an adult which he has done in spades. A crime committed as a troubled 16 year old should not by law and morality forever impact the man he became. A crime committed in 1955 by a 16 year old should not be used to condemn the man who has never had another criminal charge since that ill fated night.

Ron Dean is a good man, but I know he will always be saddened and always regret that one night of tragedy. For everyone not actually involved in the tragedy, you can forgive and should focus on the man he is now.

Unknown said...

My goodness,some of you need to turn the stove dial to”simmer”down a little bit now,Ron Dean was probably a troubled 16 year old,and I having a lot of family and friends in law enforcement in Hawai’i totally get the hostility you may have and rightfully so because no one should ever have to go thru this police officer or other wise but at least he was able to turn his life around be it acting or some other career.Look we were all teenagers once and yes we did not commit such a horrible crime and my heart really goes out to the Brown family,I like so many out there have lost friends and family to gun violence,the feeling is like no other but if you knew someone you loved or cared about that committed this type of act wouldn’t you want or hope that person would turn his or her life around I should hope so and that’s all Ron wanted to do and did,he has had to carry this around with him for nearly 65 years and still will till his death however we aren’t the ones to pass judgment on him he will get his due when the time comes,Ron Dean I have enjoyed watching you on T.V. and on Film I am a fan and can only hope you’re not acting when you say you have remorse for what you did that horrible day of your life 65 years ago,May God Bless You,with much Love & Aloha-Take care “Aku”

dnaclone said...

Wow I never knew Ron had a criminal past. I used to hang out with him at "Batteries Not Included" on Clybourn in Chicago around 1987.Actually, I never even knew he was an actor till I saw him in "The Package" and later in "Cocktail". I was trippy seeing someone on TV that you hung around with drinking and just chatting. Maybe that's why it clicked because we were just "Two regular guys".

Anonymous said...

Without knowing about Mr. Dean, I read the story of his crime in 'They Talked to a Stranger'. I was interested in what the victim, Albert Brown and his family, and then I wondered what happened to 'Mustache', Ronald Charles Dean. I was astounded that I'd seen Mr. Dean in movies and connecting the dots believe I had heard of him previously. The book above was written by Chicago commentator Len O'Connor in 1959. And it speaks of the importance of fathers. Dean was described as the son of a divorcee. And I found it interesting that Ron Dean liked the attention given to him by the reporter as quoted below from the book:

"Mustache was brought into the squad room, he seemed flattered at the size of the gathering. He puffed up and raised his head to strike a nice pose as the still -picture men went into action. Then he slowly inspected those in the squad room as Captain Ryan explained why he had been brought out of the lockup. Mustache said, sure, he would answer some questions. The boy was offered a cigarette, took it, and listened carefully when told by the radio reporter, who was a stranger to him, that both the reporter’s questions and his own answers would be recorded. He said all right, that was all right. What would the questions be about? About a lot of things, everything. All right, Mustache said, that would be OK. with him. And this is the transcript of the interrogation of the boy who shot the 00p “I want your full name. Dean.” Ronald Charles Dean? Mustache smiled faintly, as if amused at hearing his full name. He nodded. “Yeah, Ronald Charles Dean.”"

O'Connor's brother was a Catholic Bishop, and someone posting mentioned being Roman Catholic. I assume Len O'Connor acted in a priestly manner with Ron Dean and others he interviewed. It may have been this fatherly approach by O'Connor which gave Ron Dean the attention he needed to turn his life around. The officer killed may have also seen Ron Dean as a troubled young person in need, not simply a cop killer criminal, but a person.

The introduction to O'Connor's book speaks of solutions and states:

"This is a remarkable book by a remarkable man. Len O’Connor is a veteran Chicago reporter who, in appearance and superficial manner, seems to be modeled upon the traditions which Ben Hecht made famous thirty years ago in The Front Page. It would be hard for anyone to lie successfully to Len. But underneath the somewhat cynical exterior is a warm, compassionate and sympathetic heart. So, when he set out to interview a number of boys who were in deep trouble with society and the law, he was able to get at not merely the bare chronicle of their lives but also the deeper realities of environment, motives and aims. The boys could not fool him and they knew that basically he was on their side. He was questioning them not for head lines but for understanding."


Reading more about O'Connor, "His private persona was radically different from his public image, said his son, Paul. As a professional, his father was a ''tough guy,'' Paul said. ''As a dad, he was a softie.''

I remembered Len from my childhood watching television as this very dry sort of person with monotone voice, and a persona that was mainly just boring. Remembering him now as an adult, I was driven to find out why was he a fixture on television news when seeming so unexciting - it was no doubt related to substance. A loving interested person in another persons life at the right time can make a world of difference.