Reporter among the injured in deadly shooting spree

A gunman with a grudge against Kirkwood city officials killed two police officers and three public officials before other police officers shot him dead.

Also injured in the shooting spree Thursday evening, Feb. 7, was Kirkwood Mayor Mike Swoboda, who was in critical condition at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, and reporter Todd Smith of the St. Louis Suburban Journals. He is listed in satisfactory condition, according to hospital officials.

The dead have been identified as Kirkwood public works director Kenneth Yost, police officers Tom Ballman and William Biggs and council members Michael Lynch and Connie Karr.

The shooter was identified as Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton. His long-standing feud with the city was well known in the suburban community, and he had, just 10 days earlier, lost a federal free-speech lawsuit against the St. Louis suburb’s council.

Thornton was often a contentious presence at the council’s meetings. He had been convicted of disorderly conduct twice for disrupting meetings, and the council had considered banning him from meetings altogether.

Thornton owned a demolition and asphalt business called Cookco Construction. He had received numerous parking tickets around town for his commercial vehicles.

A friend of Thornton’s said the contractor felt he was being singled out.

The gunman killed one officer in a parking lot adjacent to City Hall, then walked into the council chambers where he shot and killed another police officer. Thornton then walked behind the council desks and continued pulling the trigger.

Smith, the Suburban Journals reporter, is a 36-year old graduate of Central Missouri State University. He received a Masters in Journalism from the University of Kansas in 2002.  He has worked for the Suburban Journals since September of 2006. He began covering the Kirkwood community last May.

Councilwoman Connie Karr was the former wife of St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rick Hummel. 

–Some information in this story provided by the Webster-Kirkwood Times

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