KIRKWOOD, Mo. (KMOX) – On February 7th, 2008 — five years ago — the unthinkable happened in Kirkwood.
A gunman shot a police officer on the street before bursting into a Kirkwood City Council meeting. By the end of the night, six people were dead, including two Kirkwood police officers, two council members and the city’s public works director. Two other people were wounded, including Mayor Mike Swoboda. He died seven months later from injuries sustained that night.
The gunman was a resident of the predominantly African-American Meacham Park neighborhood, Charles “Cookie” Thornton. He was killed by officers that night.
Webster-Kirkwood Times publisher Don Corrigan says he’ll never forget slain councilwoman Connie Carr, days earlier, advocating for Meacham Park to be better represented.
“In a way she was someone who was trying to address maybe the kind of complaints Thornton had,” he said. “And here she ends up getting a bullet as she was trying to get out the door that was locked.”
Corrigan discovered a voicemail from Carr several months after the shooting. The memory still puts him on the brink of tears.
As for the divide between much of Kirkwood and Meacham Park, Corrigan says people are willing to talk about racial issues, but still recoil when discussion returns to the shooting.
Reminded of the tragedy each time there’s a mass shooting in a public place, like in Aurora, Colorado or Newtown, Connecticut, Corrigan wonders what it would take for state or federal legislators to take action to curb gun violence.
The Kirkwood City Council has a regularly scheduled meeting tonight. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Art McDonnell plans to set aside a moment to remember those who were killed.