Kirkwood mayor shows signs of improvement

Friday, February 15, 2008 | 3:35 p.m. CST; updated 11:42 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

CREVE COEUR — The pain continues in Kirkwood more than a week after a gunman shot to death five people at City Hall. But amid the gloom there was some good news on Friday — Mayor Mike Swoboda is showing signs of improvement.

The mayor had been in critical condition since being shot on Feb. 7 as part of Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton's rampage at a city council meeting. Family friend Tom Noonan said at a news conference that the 69-year-old mayor's condition has been upgraded to serious.

"He's looking around. He's shaking hands to some extent and just continuing his recovery," Noonan said.

Still, Swoboda faces months of rehabilitation and recovery, Noonan said. The mayor still isn't able to speak due to a tracheotomy and a ventilator tube. Swoboda was shot twice in the head, and doctors haven't yet determined if there was brain damage or, if so, to what extent. He hasn't yet tried to walk.

"The long-term prognosis really is just to wait and see and follow him day by day," Noonan said. "But the doctors did tell us he's ahead of the recovery curve."

The community is pulling for him. Around town, schools and churches used their message boards to express hope for Swoboda's recovery. Several businesses and homes displayed small cardboard signs reading, "Come On Mike — Win One More."

"His recovery is something people are looking to and praying for as something we still have left to hope for," Noonan said.

Swoboda's wife and adult children spend most of their time at the hospital but made it to the funerals for the victims. All five ő police officers Tom Ballman and William Biggs Jr., council members Michael Lynch and Connie Karr, and public works director Ken Yost ő were laid to rest this week. Thornton's funeral on Thursday drew several hundred to the United Methodist Church near City Hall, where the pastor urged that forgiveness is part of the healing process.

Thornton, 52, had a long-running resentment with city government over parking tickets, the city's failure to award bids to his contracting company, and other issues. He frequently attended council meetings to criticize city officials.

On Feb. 7, Thornton shot Biggs just outside of City Hall, then went into the council meeting and began shooting, before other officers arrived and shot him.

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