Mo. Council Meeting Shooter Had Feuded with City Charles Thornton, the man who opened fire at a council meeting in Kirkwood, Mo., apparently left a suicide note before he began the deadly rampage in which five people were killed. Thornton was then killed by police. Friends and relatives say the gunman had a longstanding feud with city officials.
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Mo. Council Meeting Shooter Had Feuded with City

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Mo. Council Meeting Shooter Had Feuded with City

Mo. Council Meeting Shooter Had Feuded with City

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Mike Swoboda, the mayor of Kirkwood, Missouri, remains in critical condition after being shot in the head in the city council meeting. Kirkwood is a suburb of St. Louis. Around 7:00 last night, Charles Thornton went on a shooting spree at Kirkwood City Hall. He killed five people and wounded two others before police officers shot and killed him.

From member station KWMU in St. Louis, Adam Allington reports.

ADAM ALLINGTON: It's a cold overcast day in Kirkwood. The flowers that people are laying on the steps of city hall look out of place on this grey dreary day. Bonnie(ph) and Hilliard(ph) Goldman are walking to a memorial service at the United Methodist Church. Part of an overflow crowd mourning the death of two police officers, two city council members and the city's public works director.

Ms. BONNIE GOLDMAN (Resident): Well, we've lived here 35, 37 years. I know these things can happen anywhere. But still, you don't think it would happen like this in Kirkwood.

Mr. HILLIARD GOLDMAN (Resident): In the last two years, it's been so unusual for these things to happen.

ALLINGTON: Strangely, Kirkwood has been the site of another recent tragedy. It was about this time last year that authorities arrested Michael Devlin, the Kirkwood resident who had kidnapped and molested and held hostage two boys over a period of years. Now, Charles Thornton, a man everyone called Cookie, opened fire in a public meeting in what appears to be an ongoing dispute over $64,000 in parking tickets and fines.

Mr. ALLEN HOPEFUL(ph) (Resident): He shouted something and then pulled out a large silver revolver. Proceeded to shoot the police officer.

ALLINGTON: Allen Hopeful was at the city council meeting when Thornton started shooting.

Mr. HOPEFUL: We didn't know what was going to happen after that. And then I heard, maybe six more shots. Within a minute or so from that, he was beginning to chase City Attorney John Hessel around in the back of the room. Mr. Hessel was fending him off by throwing chairs at him. And I saw that as an opportunity for me to get out the door.

ALLINGTON: Before storming the building, Thornton shot and killed police officer William Biggs in the parking lot, taking his service revolver. Friends and relatives say he had recently lost a federal free speech lawsuit against the city, stemming from the ticket dispute. Gerald Thornton is the gunman's older brother.

Mr. GERALD THORNTON (Charles Thornton's Brother): Understand, parking tickets are just another word. The end of all the actions that are done are based on how much those words affect your life.

ALLINGTON: Debbie Stream knew Thornton from high school and says the tickets were all he could talk about.

Ms. DEBBIE STREAM (Resident): Like, he would run into you, a friend of mine ran into him in December and she said to him, you know, Cookie, you just need to let it go. And he said, I cannot let it go.

ALLINGTON: According to his family, Thornton left a suicide note stating the truth will come out in the end.

For NPR News, I'm Adam Allington in St. Louis.

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