Friday, February 8, 2008

Kirkwood, MO City Council shooting - Press Conference resolves sequence of events and identifies those killed.

The only thing the press conference resolved is the name of the individuals involved. A more detailed sequence of events has emerged. According to the hospital, located in Creve Cour, the Mayor is in critical condition and should be undergoing some kind of surgery today. A local reporter is also in the hospital as well with an injury to his hand.

The sequence is as follows: At approximately seven pm, the subject, Charles Lee "Cookie" Thorton, parked his vehicle, then proceeded to Kirkwood Police Sergeant William Biggs parked in his police vehicle in the parking lot, killing him. He took the Sergent's' service weapon and then he then proceeded to the City Hall, entering the council chambers. The subject shot Officer Tom Ballman in the head, killing him. Next shot was Kirkwood Public works director Ken Yost, who was killed with a shot to the head. He next shot at City Attorney John Hessel, who threw a chair to defend himself and was not hit. He next shot Councilman H.T. Lynch, and Councilwoman Connie Carr killing both. Mayor Mike Swoboda was then shot. Afterwards, police officers burst into the room and shot Thorton, killing him.

Thorton was well known to the members of the council. In spite of spats with the council, he was a well liked by fellow residents and was a lifelong resident of the city. He owned a contracting business and had apparently been cited on numerous occasions for building, construction permit, and parking violations. His brother stated that he was a person who "truly didn't understand the court system" and that the battles he had with City hall were "wearing him down." Thorton had recently lost a lawsuit in which he claimed that his civil rights had been violated after he was banned from the City Hall due to the fact that he constantly disrupted meetings of the CIty Council. He was a star track athlete in High School, graduating from Kirkwood High in 1974.

Things finally came to a head for him after loosing the lawsuit. His family stated that he started "fasting to be in the will of God" according to his mother. When he left the family home in the predominately black Mecham Park neighborhood, he told his mother he would be coming back and "He talked religion as he was going out the door," Geraldine Thorton said.
It wasn't until afterwards that the family learned what was done. "He went to war," said his brother Charles Thorton.

Some friends were baffled at the behavior of Cookie, but his battles with city hall had led others to believe that if it were one man shooting up the city hall, it would be Cookie. According to a local television reporter, the escalating tensions between Cookie and CIty hall had taken a toll.

The shootings happen just a few weeks after another young man was sentenced in the shooting death of Kirkwood Police Officer William McEntee in Mecham Park. The subject in that case, Kevin Johnson, was sentenced to death for the crime. Johnson had apparently been overwrought over the death of his brother earlier in the day and the impression by him that the lag in the response of emergency services cost his brother his life.

The shootings of the officers in the City Hall shooting have marked the third and fourth officers to die in the line of duty since the founding of Kirkwood in 1898.

It also happens on the heels of the so-called "Missouri Miracle," in which the discovery of a child kidnapped four years before, Shawn Hornbeck, and Ben Owenby, who had been snatched four days earlier, at the apartment of Michael Devlin, a pizzeria manager. Devlin is serving multiple life sentences for the crimes of kidnapping and child molestation.

Breaking out of reporter mode for a minute, I have to say I don't know why I am doing this. I am not a reporter. Maybe I am just writing this to get it out in my own mind. To give these crazy events a sense of perspective. Things have been crazy in this area lately. We had a former style editor of the Post-Dispatch raped and murdered in her Chesterfield condo. If anyplace was "safe" in St. Louis, it was the upscale Chesterfield suburb. Things like that just don't happen there. Or in Kirkwood for that matter. I live just over the hill from Kirkwood and it just doesn't seem right. Its maybe 5 or 10 minutes away from here. The world is going crazy and evil seems to reign.

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