A gunman with a history of acrimony against civic leaders stormed City Hall during a council meeting Thursday night, killing two police officers and three city officials before law enforcers fatally shot him, authorities said. The mayor was critically injured in the rampage.
The victims at the meeting in suburban St. Louis were killed after the gunman rushed the council chambers and began firing as he yelled "Shoot the mayor!" according to St. Louis County Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus. Two people were wounded before Kirkwood police fatally shot him, she said.
Panus said the names of the victims would not be released until a news conference Friday morning. But the wounded included Mayor Mike Swoboda, who was in critical condition late Thursday in the intensive- care unit of St. John's Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur, hospital spokesman Bill McShane said, declining to discuss the nature of the injuries. McShane said another victim, Suburban Journals newspaper reporter Todd Smith, was in satisfactory condition.
The gunman killed one officer outside City Hall, then walked into the chambers and shot another before continuing to fire, Panus said.
Janet McNichols, a reporter covering the meeting for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, told the newspaper that the 7 p.m. meeting with about 30 people had just started when the shooter rushed in and opened fire with at least one weapon. He started yelling about shooting the mayor while walking around and firing, hitting police Officer Tom Ballman in the head, she said.
Public Works Director Kenneth Yost was shot in the head, and council members Michael H.T. Lynch and Connie Karr also were hit, she said.
The gunman also fired at City Attorney John Hessel, who tried to fight off the attacker by throwing chairs, McNichols told the newspaper. The shooter then moved behind the desk where the council sits and fired more shots at council members, she said.
A terrible tragedy for all involved; fortunately the gunman, Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, was killed as well. From the article, it's pretty clear that Thornton was a nut who probably should have been in an institution instead of a city council chamber.
Our prayers go out for all the victims, their families, and their city.