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Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton

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Disgruntled black resident Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton killed five people and injured two more before being killed by police. Thornton was well-known for his erratic behavior in Kirkwood, Missouri an upscale suburb of 25,000 people.

Thornton stormed into Kirkwood City Hall during a City Council meeting Thursday night and used two weapons. His own revolver and a cop’s gun he took from an officer who was the first victim of the deadly rampage. Within minutes, he had killed five people. Biggs, Police Officer Tom Ballman, Councilwoman Connie Karr, Councilman Mike Lynch and Public Works Director Kenneth Yost before Kirkwood officers shot and killed Thornton. Neither slain officer had had time to draw his weapon to fight back, police say.

Thornton would routinely bring signs to the meetings. One showed three monkeys and read “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” Thornton said the monkeys represented Mayor Mike Swoboda, Public Works Director Kenneth Yost and City Attorney John Hessell. At other times, Thornton called city officials “jackasses” and bray like a donkey. The mayor eventually ordered Thornton to leave the podium and called the police. When the police came to the podium, Thornton sat on the floor and refused to leave. He was arrested and later convicted of disorderly conduct. He appealed his conviction to a state appeals court.

Between March 1996 and April 2005, Thornton had been charged with 114 violations of the city’s ordinances. He pleaded guilty and was convicted of most of them, according to court records. The charges against Thornton stemmed mostly from his unlawful operation of a construction business in the city. But he also had been convicted of assault and battery against Ken Yost, the city’s public works director.

Despite the citations, Thornton returned to the property to continue working and was arrested for working without an approved site plan. He was found guilty of 34 of the 38 counts and fined. The 2005 appeals court ruling indicated that Yost cited Thornton in May 2001 for numerous violations relating to building codes and allowing unlawful conditions and activities to exist on a property at 299 McCullough Avenue where he was performing some construction and plumbing work.

In May 2002, Thornton sued the city for malicious prosecution and sought more than $12 million dollars. But the court rejected that suit. Thornton represented himself in most of his cases but he had hired an attorney, Irwin Roitman, to represent him at one point. But Roitman withdrew in December 2003 after Thornton filed court documents without his knowledge or approval, according to court records.

The weekly Webster-Kirkwood Times quoted Swoboda as saying in June 2006 that Thornton’s contentious remarks over the years created “one of the most embarrassing situations that I have experienced in my many years of public service.”