Driven to Kill
Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton 52 walked into the Kirkwood City Hall Council meeting on Thursday, February 7 and shot and killed four people. All whom he felt had something to do with his business failure and personal downfall. Cookie as most knew, felt as he was been harassed and targeted by the mayor, councilwoman, councilman, and the public works director as well as a police officer. He critically wounded the mayor with a shot to the head and he is still in the intensive care unit after having three surgeries. But the other four died plus another police officer he killed on the parking lot, bringing a total of five people he killed in a matter of minutes. He was shot dead by the policemen who arrived on the scene before he could killed one other man that he was running after, the city’s attorney.
Cookie was fighting series of legal and personal confrontations between these public officials in Kirkwood. Kirkwood prosecuted Thornton, who owned a small construction firm, a service station, and other small businesses for dozens of municipal code violations, including illegal dumping and improper storage of building materials. He eventually was fined more than $18,000, which he never paid. He was also convicted in municipal court of assault and battery on Ken Yost, Kirkwood’s public works director, whom Thornton fatally shot Thursday. The municipal judge fined Thornton $2,000 for those assaults.
He was incensed at being convicted of the code violations. Thornton opened a legal and personal battle with the city. He filed a lawsuit making civil rights and malicious prosecution claims against the city. A Missouri appeals court threw out the lawsuit in 2005, describing his pleadings as incomprehensible. In his fight with the city, Cookie lost everything, his home, money, marriage and his parent’s home. It is said that he filed bankruptcy to the tune of nearly 500.000, all due to the city’s harassment against his company.
Is there ever a reason to kill anyone? No! No! In the Bible, God said that revenge was his. But I do believe that people can be driven insane. Look at all the kids who grab guns and return to kill people who they felt had done them wrong. Almost daily people are killing folks for the same reason- they believe that they are targeted for harassment, had being bullied or cheated or mistreated.
My mother always told me to treat people as I wanted to be treated and I have practiced this daily. Five weeks ago a disgruntled client contacted our office to report that some of the staff had hung up on her, mistreated her and talked to her as if she was nothing. She had proceeded to call the office more than 100 times, each time feeling no resolution to her problem. Finally, as the director the call was sent to me. By this time the client was so upset, hysterical and crying. As I listened patiently to her as if she was the most important person in the world, she said, “I am coming to the office and I am going to hurt these people. (She named them all) Not you Ms. Beavers and you all can call the police and anybody you want. But your staff should not have treated me the way they did.” She continued to cry into the phone. I asked to speak to someone in her house, and she said that there was no one there. I talked gently to her asking a series of questions, are you seeing a doctor, etc. As we talked and she became comfortable, she said that she was bi-polar and suffered from severe depression. I assured her that I would do everything to help her and told her I would call her back which I did. I don’t know if she was really coming to the office or not, but I treated her with respect and helped her handled a situation. You see, you never know who you are talking too or how stable they are or what they are going through. So you have to handle some people very carefully and give them respect. Even though I know we can't soothe everybody because some people are going to do bad anyway.
When Cookie bust into the council meeting last Thursday, he did not shoot 40 people, he calmly walked around and shot all those (five) whom he felt had destroyed his life, who he felt had hurt him so badly that his life was hopeless. They were people, who he had contact with who he felt harassed him, neglected, and hurt his ability to make a living. It is said that he was giving hundreds of thousand dollars worth of tickets, some as many as 16 in one day. Is that harassment? This is probably why he targeted the policemen who also had bounded him and dragged him out of meetings. This educated professional businessman who had received many awards and citations snapped. He was dubbed, "the gentle man." Ten days before this, the federal courts ruled in favor of Kirkwood, with Cookie losing his lawsuits of civil harassment, and being denied freedom of speech, he took justice in his own hands. He felt that everything that happened to him was because of race. Now granted, Kirkwood is one of the most racist cities ever, based on those who have been wrongly ticketed, wrongly arrested, or followed around in this community. That is sad.
There is never any reason to kill anyone. But public representatives, company employees and others who work with the public need to have safety precautions on their jobs, and take courses on handling disgruntled people. We can’t stop everyone who intends to take their anger and pain out on folks but we can help to decrease the numbers of those who lose their lives during their jobs.
I pray for the families of those who lost their lives as well as for Cookie’s wife, family and friends. I pray for all those who lost their lives in this senseless mass killing.