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Gunman Kills 6 City Council at Meeting

Published:

6 Dead After Gunfire at Mo. Meeting

Published: 2/7/08, 11:26 PM EDT
By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD
     

KIRKWOOD, Mo. (AP) - A gunman stormed a city council meeting Thursday night, killing two police officers and three other people before law enforcers fatally shot him, authorities said. The man's gunfire injured the mayor, a newspaper reported.

The victims at the meeting in suburban St. Louis were killed after the gunman rushed the council chambers and began firing as he yelled "Shoot the mayor," according to St. Louis County Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus.

Janet McNichols, a reporter covering the meeting for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told the newspaper that the 7 p.m. meeting with about 30 people had just started when the shooter rushed in and opened fire with at least one weapon. He started yelling about shooting the mayor while walking around and firing, hitting police Officer Tom Ballman in the head, she said.

Mayor Mike Swoboda was wounded, McNichols said. Public Works Director Kenneth Yost was shot in the head, and council members Michael H.T. Lynch and Connie Karr also were hit, she said.

The gunman also fired at City Attorney John Hessel, who tried to fight off the attacker by throwing chairs, McNichols told the newspaper. The shooter then moved behind the desk where the council sits and fired more shots at council members, she said.

McNichols identified the gunman as Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, a man she knows from covering the council. Thornton had previously disrupted meetings, she told the Post-Dispatch.

Dozens of emergency vehicles were on the scene, and an area of several blocks was cordoned off along a busy north-south corridor around City Hall.

Kirkwood is about 20 miles southwest of downtown St. Louis. City Hall is in a quiet area filled with condominiums, eateries and shops, not far from a dance studio and train station.

Mary Linehares, a teacher who lives about four blocks from City Hall and who walked down to the scene with her husband, described the town as quiet and eclectic.

"It's like a small town in St. Louis," Linehares told The Associated Press. "You can call it Mayberry."

___

Associated Press writer Jim Suhr in Kirkwood contributed to this report.



     Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Entry #110

Comments

1.
Comment by pacattack05 - February 7, 2008, 11:46 pm
This is terrible. Just the other day a guy killed 6 people at a store, where he rounded the employees up in the back and just blatantly shot them.

Man...this earth is losing it.....



2.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 7, 2008, 11:53 pm
Yeah, that's the way to do it people. Just go in and kill a few heads when they have their meetings and take a few police officers out too.

3.
justxploringComment by justxploring - February 8, 2008, 12:15 am
With the economy the way it is, as it slides further into the gutter we're going to see a lot more violence. It's some kind of collective insanity.
4.
jarasanComment by jarasan - February 8, 2008, 10:50 am
You shoulda heard his brother, he equated what he did with us going to war against Saddam. Diplomacy didn't work, they kept harrassing him, so he went to war. WOW. You see this is how some govts. work, they go after the easy prey, I guarantee you, the police and city council probably have worse problems than some contractor parking equipment in his driveway. But they kept after him, over and over, some guy trying to make an honest living, and the local govt. standing in the way continuosly.

I don't condone what he did but if you keep teasing a tiger, it may turn on you. The guy had no problem with the economy or anything else, he felt victimized and cracked.
5.
csfbComment by csfb - February 8, 2008, 11:22 am
It is awful. Violence is on the rise.
6.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 8, 2008, 1:50 pm
Gunman's Note: `The Truth Will Come Out'
Published: 2/8/08, 1:25 PM EDT
By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD

KIRKWOOD, Mo. (AP) - A gunman carrying a grudge against City Hall left a suicide note on his bed warning "The truth will come out in the end," before he went on a deadly shooting spree at a council meeting, his brother told The Associated Press Friday.

Arthur Thornton, 42, said in an interview at the family's home that he knew his brother was responsible for the killings when he read the one-line note.

"It looks like my brother is going crazy, but he's just trying to get people's attention," Thornton said, explaining he believed the note reflected his brother's growing frustration with local leaders. Police have the note, he said.

After storming the meeting and killing five people Thursday night, Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton was fatally shot by law enforcers. Friends and relatives said he had a long-standing feud with the city, and he had lost a federal free-speech lawsuit against the St. Louis suburb just 10 days earlier. At earlier meetings, he said he had received 150 tickets against his business.

The victims were identified Friday as Public Works Director Kenneth Yost, Officer Tom Ballman, Officer William Biggs and council members Michael H.T. Lynch and Connie Karr. Flowers and balloons were placed outside City Hall Friday in their honor.

The city's mayor, Mike Swoboda, was in critical at an intensive care unit, St. John's Mercy Medical Center spokeswoman Lynne Beck said. Another victim, Suburban Journals newspaper reporter Todd Smith, was in satisfactory condition, Beck said.

"This is such an incredible shock to all of us. It's a tragedy of untold magnitude," Tim Griffin, Kirkwood's deputy mayor, said at a news conference. "The business of the city will continue and we will recover but we will never be the same."

The meeting had just started when the shooter opened fire, said Janet McNichols, a reporter covering the meeting for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The gunman killed one officer outside City Hall, then walked into the council chambers, shot another and continued pulling the trigger, St. Louis County Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus said Friday. A witness said the gunman yelled "Shoot the mayor!" as he fired shots in the chambers.

As the man fired at City Attorney John Hessel, Hessel tried to fight off the attacker by throwing chairs, McNichols said. The shooter then moved behind the desk where the council sits and fired more shots at council members.

"We crawled under the chairs and just laid there," McNichols told ABC's "Good Morning America." "We heard Cookie shooting, and then we heard some shouting, and the police, the Kirkwood police had heard what was going on, and they ran in, and they shot him."

Thornton was often a contentious presence at the council's meetings; he had twice been convicted of disorderly conduct for disrupting meetings in May 2006.

The city had ticketed Thornton's demolition and asphalt business, Cookco Construction, for parking his commercial vehicles in the neighborhood, said Ron Hodges, a friend who lives in the community. The tickets were "eating at him," Hodges said.

"He felt that as a black contractor he was being singled out," said Hodges, who is black. "I guess he thought mentally he had no more recourse. That's not an excuse."

The weekly Webster-Kirkwood Times quoted Swoboda as saying in June 2006 that Thornton's contentious remarks over the years created "one of the most embarrassing situations that I have experienced in my many years of public service."

The mayor's comments came during a meeting attended by Thornton two weeks after he was forcibly removed from the chambers. Swoboda had said the council considered banning Thornton from future meetings but decided against it.

In a federal lawsuit stemming from his arrests during two meetings just weeks apart, Thornton insisted that Kirkwood officials violated his constitutional rights to free speech by barring him from speaking at the meetings.

But a judge in St. Louis tossed out the lawsuit Jan. 28, writing that "any restrictions on Thornton's speech were reasonable, viewpoint neutral, and served important governmental interests."

Another brother, Gerald Thornton, said the legal setback may have been his brother's final straw. "He has (spoken) on it as best he could in the courts, and they denied all rights to the access of protection and he took it upon himself to go to war and end the issue," he said.

In a neighborhood of modest, ranch-style homes, the gunman's house appears neatly landscaped with colorful mulch, the property's circle driveway lined by well-placed shrubs.

Outside the house, a tattered U.S. flag flew at half-staff, not far from a handwritten sign that read: "RIP Cookie. Only God can judge you!!!!!"

Kirkwood is about 20 miles southwest of downtown St. Louis. City Hall is in a quiet area filled with condominiums, eateries and shops, not far from a dance studio and train station. Despite its reputation locally for serenity, the city has grappled in recent years with crimes that brought it unwanted attention.

Down the street from City Hall is the Imo's pizzeria once managed by Michael Devlin, who kidnapped 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck in 2002 and held him for four years before authorities rescued him in January 2007. Also rescued was Ben Ownby, another teenager Devlin abducted just days before Devlin's arrest.

Those crimes got Devlin life terms on state charges, as well as 170 years behind bars on federal charges that he made pornography.

___

Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis and Betsy Taylor in Creve Coeur contributed to this report.



Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
7.
Comment by jim695 - February 8, 2008, 2:18 pm
I'm not bragging when I say that I predicted this two years ago. People in this country are beginning to wake up, and they're plenty pissed off about what the government, OUR government, is doing to us and to this country. We've read other stories where people have snapped and gone on a rampage, killing innocent bystanders at restaurants, brokerages and other places of business.
   Now, however, it seems as though we're finally ready to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. I do not condone violence, but when our elected leaders succumb to corruption and influence-peddling, our options for obtaining justice are extremely limited. Most government officials on any level enjoy varying levels of immunity from the very laws they're charged with enforcing. Even the police will tell you, "My job is to enforce the law, not to obey it," and so they see no reason to drive the speed limit or to obey traffic signals when they're in a hurry to get somehere.
   This country was established by an illegal revolution, and that's the only way we'll be able to take it back. They might be immune from the law but, as the article above clearly illustrates, they're not immune to us.
   I discovered first-hand that you don't have to commit a crime to be arrested and put on trial these days. When the government does things like this to us, and when they have the nerve to stand there and tell us, "There's nothing you can do about it; just bend over and take it once more," it becomes our responsibility to correct their misguided conclusions with any method they're likely to understand.
   Quite frankly, I fear our government much more than I fear any terrorist; I can defend myself against a terrorist, but when I'm attacked by my own government, I must either swallow what they give me to swallow or go to jail for defnding myself the only way I can; there are no other choices.
   We're going to see much more of this in the coming months. We're all fed up with this crap, and I expect to see many others who choose this very effective method of dealing with a dishonest government that demands we behave like sheep.
   I realize this post is going to make some of you very angry. When you're arrested and tried for stopping a crime in progress, and then you lose your rights and privileges after you're acquitted, then you can tell me I'm wrong for feeling the way I do. In my opinion, the guy deserves a memorial plaque in the town square for what he's done. At least he had the stones to stand up and do something for the rest of us. My guess is that the survivors won't be smart enough to get the message. When the funerals are over, they'll get back to business as usual, because they're too obtuse to realize that they it was their actions that brought about this reaction. They'll blame the shooter and his family, they'll balme the police department that couldn't protect them and they'll blame Bush and the Department of Homeland Security. They'll blame everyone EXCEPT themselves. They'll keep screwing their constituents over until this happens again, and then they'll ask, "What the hell is wrong with these people? Have they all lost their minds?"
   At 2:05 this morning, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my acquittal by going to bed early. So far, I have been forced to spend $20,000 on this case. The prosecutor and eleven police officers have broken many, many state and federal laws in order to deprive me of my rights, privileges and property. They tell me there's NOTHING I can do about it, but I'm beginning to wonder if that's really true ...
   Jim
8.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 8, 2008, 2:33 pm
My guess is that the survivors won't be smart enough to get the message. When the funerals are over, they'll get back to business as usual, because they're too obtuse to realize that they it was their actions that brought about this reaction.

They'll blame the shooter and his family, they'll balme the police department that couldn't protect them and they'll blame Bush and the Department of Homeland Security.

They'll blame everyone EXCEPT themselves. They'll keep screwing their constituents over until this happens again, and then they'll ask, "What the hell is wrong with these people? Have they all lost their minds?"

AND ANOTHER HEAD WILL GROW BACK.
9.
justxploringComment by justxploring - February 8, 2008, 3:42 pm
I am glad I read all the comments. At least I'm not the only one who thinks violence is not the answer.

Jarasan, maybe I misunderstood you, but "trying to make a living" doesn't cut it. I had a neighbor who parked his very large truck in the driveway and it was an eyesore. It wasn't legal, but I didn't complain since I knew he'd be moving it soon. However, how do you think it affected the people who were trying to sell their homes? It was also very loud. Rules are rules. If they are unfair, then we need to fight them, but certainly shooting people and destroying families isn't the answer. If this is justice, then I guess I should shoot my landlord next time he raises the rent.
10.
jarasanComment by jarasan - February 8, 2008, 5:36 pm
"In a neighborhood of modest, ranch-style homes, the gunman's house appears neatly landscaped with colorful mulch, the property's circle driveway lined by well-placed shrubs."

These people were persecuting this guy, for years, while Michael Devlin was raping a child for years. Jim695 I understand, I live in MD. montgomery county. Legalized extortion is a form of government fascism enacted by weak politicians through the force of the police, prosecutors, and judges. You know I don't want to hear another sob story about a murder, rape, overdose, child abuse, you know why? because the local, state, and federal govts. are busy collecting taxes, issuing tax leins, stealing private property, writing parking tickets, getting kick backs, and don't have time to do the job they were intended to do, protecting the citizens of this country. You see the hard work of dealing with real criminals, murderers, and rapists is dangerous and not very profitable.
11.
justxploringComment by justxploring - February 8, 2008, 6:25 pm
Jarasan, you made your point. Still does that justify blowing someone's head off? I was physically injured and in pain for life by someone, but I didn't murder him. There are parents whose children have been run down by drunk drivers, but they aren't allowed to shoot the man/woman to death. What about people who have been injured for life by a doctor? Do you think a malpractice suit will ever make up for losing a leg or an eye..or a child?

I feel badly for Jim. I know what it is like to be falsely accused, although I've never been arrested for anything. It must be maddening. However, I was lied to and cheated by a real estate agent and a mortgage broker who both had a devastating effect on my life. 20 years later what they did is hurting me. In 2001 a big portion of my retirement was lost in stocks because someone at Paine Weber made a very bad investment, even though I questioned its risk factor and directed him to do otherwise. I even called twice to change my portfolio, but who records conversations? This affected my entire future. Should I walk into UBS/Paine Weber and open fire?

Here's a very good reason for shooting people. In 2005 I complained about a general manager who was very abusive. (I'm not talking about sexual remarks) I made a big mistake by going to Human Resources to ask for a transfer. I knew several other people had done the same, including 2 managers who had left. One had a heart attack right after this guy was having one of his fits. (no, I am not making this up) As I said, this was not a petty complaint and I really wanted to keep my job. I kept saying "I don't want any of this to affect my job status with the company." I was asked to sign something and, like an idiot, I trusted this woman in HR. I got a call the next morning saying "We accept your resignation." I don't even know what that means! If I wanted to quit, I would have just left or given notice. Then I was unable to collect unemployment because they said I "just quit" and I didn't. All I did was ask someone in HR if there was anything I could do about his behavior. They denied that anyone else had ever filed a complaint, and I know for a fact that is a lie. So think about it... on my day off I went to someone who is supposed to help employees with issues, told her this man had called me at home several times when he was belligerent (and probably drunk) mentioned he acted unprofessional in the workplace and even threw things, and then I was out of a job! They said I signed a letter of resignation although they never would send me a copy. After that, I couldn't even get a reference after working there for 3 years. They even told one prospective employer I was only emploued for a few months so I did get that job. I offered to show paycheck stubs and even tax returns to prove they were "mistaken."   When I called HR they said they must have "misplaced" my file, since I had also worked at another one of their stores, but they only had a few records. Because of them, I almost lost my apartment, my car, etc. A coworker who encouraged me to speak on behalf of everyone swore on her life she'd back me up, but when she was questioned she denied the problems and told me "I don't want to get involved."

So should I walk into that store and shoot everyone? Chaos, disorder and violence is not the answer.
12.
justxploringComment by justxploring - February 8, 2008, 6:34 pm
Sorry for the long rant, Tenaj. The comment always looks shorter when I write it! LOL I also made a mistake. Obviously I meant that, because they lied and said I only worked there for a few months, I DID NOT get the propective job. Anyway, this must be on my mind today. I made pretty good money there and wish I could go back to 2005 if I had a time machine. There are no jobs in retail here and stores are closing all the time. So I learned my lesson. I was a fool to think a Human Resources Dept really cares about Humans.
13.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 8, 2008, 8:55 pm
No problem Justx. That's what the comment section is for. I agree with Jarasan and Jim695. You can't run a town like it's 1895 - people snap.
14.
justxploringComment by justxploring - February 9, 2008, 4:46 am
Did you read the story about the man who was forced to pay his twin brother's tickets? He just doesn't want to go to jail and lose his job. They weren't even identical twins!

http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20080204_Ronnie_Polaneczky__Oh__brother_.html
15.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 9, 2008, 6:58 am
I'm glad they listened to him and continued to fix the tickets each time the computer glitch surfaced.
16.
TenajComment by Tenaj - February 9, 2008, 8:46 am
I knew it had to be more than being thrown out of meetings and getting fined 150 parking tickets in his driveway, and losing a freedom of speech case.

Thornton's dispute with City Hall had been escalating since the late 1990s, when he "was promised" a large amount of construction work on a development near his home, said Arthur Thornton, 42. The vast majority of work went to other contractors, he said.

"They just gave him what I'd call the scraps," Arthur Thornton said.

Thornton had developed an especially tense relationship with Yost, Arthur Thornton said. Yost would often complain that Thornton was parking his commercial vehicles in residential neighborhoods. Some were parked in Thornton's driveway, some in a lot across the street.

The Yost dude (killed) was Director of Public Works Kenneth Yost.

http://www.att.net/s/editorial.dll?pnum=1&bfromind=7406&eeid=5682612&_sitecat=1522&dcatid=0&eetype=article&render=y&ac=-2&ck=&ch=ne&rg=blsadstrgt&_lid=332&_lnm=tg+ne+topnews&ck=

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