Kirkwood mayor set to be released from hospital after shooting

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 | 4:35 p.m. CST; updated 2:32 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CREVE COEUR — A suburban St. Louis mayor who was shot twice in the head by a disgruntled resident at a city council meeting will be released from the hospital Wednesday.

Kirkwood Mayor Michael Swoboda will be discharged from St. John's Mercy Medical Center to a rehabilitation hospital in the same medical system. His son, Michael Swoboda Jr., said at a news conference Tuesday that the family hopes the mayor can come home in three weeks to two months.

"Every day seems like a thousand-yard dash," he said of the speed of his father's recovery. He and family friend Tom Noonan said Swoboda, 69, has been breathing on his own for several days, is eating and is able to talk to family and friends.

They said Swoboda has no memory of the attack, but they told him he had been shot a few days ago. "He went through some anguish when he heard about the people who were killed," Noonan said.

On Feb. 7, Kirkwood resident Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, shot and killed two police officers, two City Council members and the public works director. He also wounded a reporter before Thornton was shot and killed by police.

Thornton had a contentious relationship with city officials that dated back years. As the owner of a small contracting company, he was cited multiple times for violating municipal codes. He was arrested twice in City Hall for disorderly conduct when he criticized officials during council meetings.

Residents in Kirkwood and the region have closely been following Swoboda's progress. His son said his dad has received hundreds, if not thousands, of cards from well wishers and a steady stream of visitors. He said doctors have been amazed at his father's healing, though they expect more complete recovery could take about a year.

Swoboda's son, 34, said his father's last memory is buying tickets to take his son on a trip to Ireland in late May. "I told him today we're going on the trip," the younger Swoboda said.

Medical staffers also hope Swoboda might be able to attend the last city council meeting he would have served as mayor in April, before his term expires.

Swoboda's son said the family is trying not to focus on the shooting, but to make sure the mayor is free of pain and on the road to recovery. He said the mayor is talking about everyday things, like the family dog. "Is everybody safe? Is everybody happy? Just Dad stuff, you know," his son said.

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