« Back to blog

Kirkwood, MO: City Council Meeting Massacre

A gunman named Charles Lee Thornton walked into a city council planning meeting in Kirkwood, Missouri tonight and opened fire. At least six people were dead by the time the shooting was done, as was the gunman.

Among the wounded taken to a local medical facility were two councilmen and Kirkwood Mayor Mike Swoboda.

Kirkwood police opened fire on Thornton, killing him.

Thornton apparently had a long-lived beef against the city of Kirkwood. He’d even once filed a restraining order against the city, which was denied.

In an article published just today, first amendment scholar David L. Hudson Jr. referenced an ongoing beef between Mr. Thornton and the council and related legal actions. Hudson wrote:

A federal judge in Missouri has rejected the First Amendment claims of a man removed from Kirkwood City Council meetings for “repetitive, personal, virulent attacks” against council members.

Charles Lee Thornton had sued the city of Kirkwood after he was arrested twice (and later convicted) for disorderly conduct at two council meetings in 2006.

Thornton spoke more than once at council meetings about what he felt was harassment from the city, ignoring whatever was on the agenda at the time. According to Hudson, Thornton once began his address to the council by saying, “Jackass, jackass, jackass…”

Kirkwood City Council minutes posted online from a meeting held in February of 2007 give a weirdly muted account of one of Mr. Thornton’s visits to the council chambers: “Cookie Thornton, 351 Attucks, delivered a subpoena and made remarks.”

A column from an August 29, 2003 edition of the Webster-Kirkwood Times provided another portrait of Thornton’s strange behavior:

Cookie Thornton refuses to obey certain laws out of a belief that they are discriminatory […] He shows up at each Kirkwood city council meeting and uses disruptive street theatre tactics to voice his displeasure. A lot of his anger is apparently directed at Ken Yost, the head of Kirkwood’s department of public works, whose job it is to enforce Kirkwood ordinances.

I don’t particularly like such stories. But I have to agree with the editors that persistent disruption of public meetings, violations of the law and threats of lawsuits make news…

Thornton would name Yost in an unsuccessful suit he filed in 2005.

Ken Yost was among those targeted by the man called “Cookie” at tonight’s fateful council meeting.

According to the archives of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Thornton even had minor political ambitions of his own at one point. A list of “Candidates seeking Mayoral seats, spots as trustees, aldermen,” and “council members” published on February 14, 1994 listed “Charles “Cookie” Thornton, 351 Attucks Street” as a candidate for one of the three seats then open on the Kirkwood City Council.

This entry will be updated.