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UPDATE: Prosecutor says Kirkwood shooter intended to kill more people

Friday, August 8, 2008 | 9:04 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 8, 2008

 

CLAYTON - The St. Louis County prosecuting attorney said a man who fatally shot five people during a rampage at Kirkwood City Hall wanted to kill the entire City Council and other officials.

Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said Friday that evidence unearthed during an investigation showed that Charles "Cookie" Thornton, 52, would have killed more people during the City Council meeting on Feb. 7 if he had not been shot and killed.

The rampage inside the building lasted less than one minute before Thornton was shot, McCulloch said. He had killed a police officer outside City Hall before fatally shooting another officer, two council members and the city's public works director inside the building.

"Clearly, from all the evidence in the case, Charles Thornton went to the Kirkwood City Council that night for the purpose of executing as many members of the ... council and city administration as he could," McCulloch said.

McCulloch cited Thornton's shooting of Councilwoman Connie Karr, who had long tried to help Thornton resolve his many disputes with the city. He said Thornton had to follow her around a corner to kill her.

McCulloch released a more than 100-page report and an audiotape recording of the meeting. On the audiotape, city officials and audience members are heard reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and beginning the meeting before shots ring out and screaming is heard.

Although witnesses remember Thornton yelling several different things, he is captured on tape yelling only "Hands in the air, hands in the air."

McCulloch said a total of 18 shots were fired that night. Thornton fired one shot outside that killed a police sergeant and 11 shots inside Kirkwood City Hall. Two officers responding to the attack fired six shots inside City Hall. Thornton was hit twice, he said.

Thornton first shot Sgt. William Biggs across the street from City Hall. Biggs was heading into a restaurant to pick up his dinner.

"Thornton saw him and wanted a gun, another gun, and that is the sole purpose for him executing Sgt. Biggs," McCulloch said.

Biggs was able to hit an emergency button on his uniform, signaling other officers at the police department to a problem. Thornton then fired one shot, killing Biggs.

Then, concealing both his own .44-caliber Magnum and Biggs' gun under a protest sign on a sandwich board, Thornton entered City Hall.

According to the investigation, the sign said that unrest in Thornton's Meachum Park neighborhood would continue until "the racist plantation mentality of the Kirkwood officials are addressed." The other side said, "Justice of Constitution Rights is all I seek."

Thornton then began firing. Besides the dead, he also wounded a reporter and shot then-Mayor Mike Swoboda twice in the head. Swoboda survived.

Thornton had been feuding with City Hall for years. He blamed the city for lost contracts for his demolition business. He also was angry about the numerous tickets he received for code violations and for illegally parking his work trucks.

McCulloch said it was unclear where or when Thornton got the gun he brought with him, which had been reported stolen 13 years ago. "When he came into possession of it, I have no idea," the prosecutor said.

McCulloch said he told relatives of the victims about the investigation's findings on Thursday. He said they asked him to convey their gratitude for everyone who has helped them in recent months and asked their privacy to be respected.

A message was left for a relative of Thornton seeking comment.

Associated Press reporter Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis contributed to this report.

 


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