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Gunman kills 5 at public meeting in St. Louis suburb before police take him out

By: CHRISTOPHER LEONARD Associated Press Writer
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KIRKWOOD, Mo. (AP) ” A gunman stormed a city council meeting Thursday night, killing two police officers and three other people before law enforcers fatally shot him, authorities said. The man's gunfire injured the mayor, a newspaper reported. 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. 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. Mayor Mike Swoboda was wounded, McNichols 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. McNichols identified the gunman as Charles Lee Cookie Thornton, a man she knows from covering the council. Thornton had previously disrupted meetings, she told the Post-Dispatch. Dozens of emergency vehicles were on the scene, and an area of several blocks was cordoned off along a busy north-south corridor around City Hall. Kirkwood is about 20 miles southwest of downtown St. Louis. City Hall is in a quiet area filled with condominiums, eateries and shops, not far from a dance studio and train station. Mary Linehares, a teacher who lives about four blocks from City Hall and who walked down to the scene with her husband, described the town as quiet and eclectic. It's like a small town in St. Louis, Linehares told The Associated Press. You can call it Mayberry. ””” Associated Press writer Jim Suhr in Kirkwood contributed to this report.