Gunman Left Suicide Note With A Warning

Associated Press
Saturday, February 9, 2008

KIRKWOOD, Mo., Feb. 8 -- A gunman carrying a grudge against City Hall left a suicide note on his bed warning that "the truth will come out in the end" before he went on a deadly shooting spree at a council meeting, his brother said Friday.

Arthur Thornton, 42, said in an interview at the family's home that he knew when he read the one-line note that Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton was the man who stormed the meeting Thursday night and killed five people before police shot him dead.

"I want to say for my family that I am truly, truly sorry," Arthur Thornton said, breaking into tears. "I'm so sorry. This didn't have to happen."

Friends and relatives said Charles Thornton had a long-standing feud with the city; at earlier council meetings, he said he had received 150 parking tickets against his demolition and asphalt business.

Ten days before the shooting, he had lost a federal lawsuit against the St. Louis suburb after claiming that Kirkwood officials violated his constitutional right to free speech by barring him from speaking at council meetings. Another brother, Gerald Thornton, suggested that the setback may have been the final straw for his brother.

The victims were identified as Public Works Director Kenneth Yost, police officer Tom Ballman, police officer William Biggs, and council members Michael H.T. Lynch and Connie Karr. Flowers and balloons were placed outside City Hall in their honor.

Mayor Mike Swoboda was in critical condition at an intensive-care unit, said Lynne Beck, a St. John's Mercy Medical Center spokeswoman. Another victim, Suburban Journals newspaper reporter Todd Smith, was in satisfactory condition, Beck said.

The gunman killed one officer outside City Hall, then walked into the council chambers, shot another and continued pulling the trigger, said St. Louis County Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus.

Thornton was often a contentious presence at the council's meetings; he was twice convicted of disorderly conduct for disrupting meetings in May 2006. Swoboda had said the council considered banning Thornton from meetings but decided against it.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company