Last night, a guy named Charles “Cookie” Thornton stormed the Kirkwood city council meeting. He had a gun. He shot and killed an officer outside City Hall, took the officer’s gun and went inside.
He shot six more people, killing four of them. A policeman, two council members and the public works director. Injured are the mayor and a reporter. Thornton was shot and killed by police responding to the scene.
Thornton had started getting tickets for illegal parking and performing work without a permit, and decided to take it out on the council. He called them names during the public comment portion, and the council considered banning him from the meetings. They decided not to. He was arrested and convicted twice of disorderly conduct at the meetings. In one case, he was asked to leave, and decided to lie down on the floor rather than be escorted out. The officer had to threaten him with Mace before he would leave. He sued the city, saying his First Amendment rights were violated, but lost.
Thornton was black, all those he killed were white.
And today, there was a town meeting. And this happened:
The Riverfront Times has a more extensive quote from Gordon:
And from Moore:
Bad things are happening in St. Louis. I’m not really sure who or what I’m pitting here, but this is just a terrible, terrible situation all around.
There was a guy in the lockerroom at the Y tonite who was saying that he knew all of the people involved – on both sides; both shooter and shot. He’d gone to a couple of memorial services, and had another to go.
He claimed that this all derived from personal feuds going back for some while – apparently Mr. Thornton was originally angry that he hadn’t been awarded a contract for construction in downtown Kirkwood, which he thought he should have gotten because of his minority status. In turn, Mr. Thornton thought he had subsequently been harrassed by Kirkwood police and city officials. There was also apparently a lawsuit he filed against Kirkwood, which was dismissed not too long ago.
I don’t know this guy from Adam, and didn’t get involved in the conversation (I have a thing about chatting up naked guys in the shower; I think it’s rather rude), so grain of salt and all that.
But: Meacham Park has definitely had problems for many decades, now – it had big violent crime problems back in the 80s, when I worked at a HoJo near there. That was ameleoriated, somewhat, when some streets were re-routed a decade or more back, and there was some heavy development (strip malls anchored by Target & Home Depot, Sam’s store, etc.) in the area after it got incorporated into Kirkwood. But it has always been minority-dominated, poorer, and doesn’t really get a lot of attention from Kirkwood (the more affluent areas get much more development).
I’ve lived in Florida since 1985, but I grew up in Kirkwood (KHS Class of '81 - go Pioneers!).
All I know is what I read, but although it seems like it was really one man’s vendetta against Mayor Swoboda, he (and many other black leaders in St.L) prefer to couch it in racial terms.
Which is not to say that St.Louis hasn’t had racial issues for years. Pruett-Igoe anyone? How about “court-ordered voluntary desegregation” (oxymoronic phrase of that year, surely). They need to be addressed. But to make the killer a martyr and the victims (two police officers and three city council members who were just there for an ordinary meeting) come off as the Powers of Oppression is just wrong!
I just have sympathy for ALL the families involved (including Thornton’s) and hope this may spark a genuine dialogue and a hope for real change. I hate to see this happening in what is still, to me, “home.”
While I agree that it’s pretty dumb to say a guy who died in a firefight with police officers after shooting seven people and killing five, including two officers, stood for “peace and justice,” she did at least seem apologetic, which is something I can’t say for his brother and his mother.
I live in Kirkwood, I’ve met Cookie Thornton and I have a pretty good background of everything that led up to the shooting.
In a lot of respects, Thornton was a good guy. He was well-liked and did a lot for the community. But he ran his business pretty carelessly – he parked his trucks in residential neighborhoods and stored building matetrials in vacant lots. Eventually the city cracked down and issued dozens of citations. Over the next few years, there were more than 150 citations, numerous fines, etc.
Thornton was outraged. He felt he had been singled out and picked on. He began to disrupt meetings of the city council, planning and zoning committee, any body he felt was in on it. Several times he had to be escorted out. He wrote letters to the newspaper. Eventually he filed lawsuits (which were subsequently thrown out of court.)
There were people (both black and white) who tried to mediate, but Thornton became more intractable. I’m no psychiatrist, but I think it’s fair to say he was obsessed by what he felt was his mistreatment by the city.
It’s worth noting that when he walked into the city council meeting, Thornton walked right by two members of the council who he apparently had no grudge against, to shoot the ones he felt had persecuted him.
Like Lightray said, Meacham Park has had its problems over the years. I can understand that a lot of the residents feel they’ve been screwed by the power structure. But from where I sit, it seems more like the actions of one person who was possessed by his own devil, and the reactions of people who loved him and can’t understand what happened.
People, people. St. Louis is nowhere near the action, but 10 miles away, nearly in a different time zone for all the differences. I spent 20 years of my childhood in Kirkwood, even worked in the City Hall once, and it’s not St. Louis (I used to work there, too, and in places where my color really stood out).
Kirkwood public schools were integrated in the early 50’s (right after Brown, I think) and racial violence was never a serious issue AFAIK.
There’s absolutely no excuse for his actions. Anyone playing the race card is just taking the Jesse Jackson route towards blaming the Honkies for everything from oil prices to a shortage of Teddy bears.
I got my degree in journalism at nearby Webster University, and my professor e-mailed some of his former students with a news update. One of the council members who was killed, Connie Carr, spoke to his community journalism class last Monday. Police Officer Tom Ballman was scheduled to speak to the class on Friday. My professor is also the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, a weekly newspaper he co-founded in the late 70’s.
I remember learning a bit about the history of Meacham Park in that community journalism class. The residents have long felt neglected by Kirkwood. I knew there was tension, but obviously there’s something much deeper bubbling underneath the surface, judging not just from the shooting itself but by the reaction to it.
St. Louis shouldn’t catch all of the blame for problems in one of its suburban cities.
Quick lesson: the City of St. Louis is both a city and a county. A separate county bordering and somewhat surrounding St. Louis is confusingly called St. Louis County. It has +70 small cities incorporated and unincorporated within the county. Kirkwood is one of those.
Meacham park area has always been an economic and racially isolated section of the city Kirkwood. Most of the other cities in the county either have no similar economic contrasts or, if they do, the area is much smaller.
So possibly the residents of Meacham have issues that need to be addressed.
But does anything, any grievance even remotely justify Thornton’s actions?
So what’s obviously happening is that friends and family of Thornton are trying to find some way to defend him. In the meantime, attention addicts are using the opportunity to feed their own issues. The media is happy to play along because a big racial scandal sells more advertisement than the daily dose of what banger shot another banger.
Wrap that all together and its only a matter of time before Jesse has to ride in and save the day.
he real problems, the real truth will no longer matter.
Well said, Bubbadog. I don’t know any of the individuals involved, but I’m willing to cut Thornton’s relatives some slack. Their grief must be overwhelming- I mean, “My loved one went on a killing spree”- how rational would you be? Something said in a state of shock, however rude…
Again, I don’t know anybody in this; Kirkwood is several miles away, and I’ve never hung out there. Why this guy decided to do mass murder? Got me.