Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kirkwood Massacre Shooter: Hero, Victim, or Monster?
By Nicholas Stix

Kirkwood, Missouri Police Sergeant William Biggs, 50. KPD Officer Tom Ballman, 37. Director of Public Works Kenneth Yost, 61. Councilman Michael H.T. Lynch, 63. Councilwoman Connie Karr, 51.

All dead, all white.

Mayor Mike Swoboda, age unknown. Suburban Journals reporter Todd Smith, 36.

Both wounded, both white.

Their killer, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton, 52, black.

Sergeant Biggs was a “cool, calm” man who had been a cattle rancher in Colorado, before returning home to the St. Louis County area to become a Kirkwood city policeman 20 years ago.

Officer Ballman had been a Marine, a corrections officer for two years, and a Kirkwood city policeman for eight. The old Marine’s ability to defuse prison conflicts was legendary.

DPW Kenneth Yost, known both for his strict adherence to rules, and for his helpfulness towards citizens navigating the city codes, had been married for 41 years to his high school sweetheart, the former Cathy Voss.

Councilman Michael Lynch was an architect and Special Business District booster.

Councilwoman Connie Karr, a former journalist, planned on running for mayor.

Charles Lee Thornton was a local businessman who owned an asphalt and demolition company. He didn’t see why he should have to obey the local parking and business regulations, which he deemed “racist,” and had thereby amassed 150 tickets for illegally parking his asphalt mixing trucks, engaging in illegal dumping, doing work without a permit, and illegally storing materials. He had taken to disrupting City Council meetings, personally abusing Council members, gotten himself arrested twice for disorderly conduct in 2006, with Officer Ballman serving as the arresting officer both times, had twice been convicted for assault and battery for attacks against Director of Public Works Yost, and had a trial pending for an assault on local restaurateur, Paul Cartier. The city had considered barring Thornton from all Council meetings, but decided that he had a right to be there, though it limited his freedom of speech, so that he could no longer disrupt meetings at will, and personally insult the Council members whom he would later shoot.

Thornton filed suit in Federal Court, charging that his First Amendment rights had been violated. His suit had been thrown out of court on January 28, with the judge’s decision saying that “any restrictions on Thornton’s speech were reasonable, viewpoint neutral, and served important governmental interests.”

Although Charles Thornton wasn’t interested in killing any non-whites, the shootings of the February 7 Kirkwood Massacre weren’t racially motivated. Black-on-white mass murders and execution-style murders and torture-rape-murders (see also: here and here) never are. Just ask any expert.

And yet, at a public meeting in Kirkwood’s black community of Meacham Park, where Thornton lived, Ben Gordon said,

To me, Charles Thornton is a hero. He opened a business. He went to court, but the system failed him. … We are sorry, we grieve, but (Kirkwood officials) share in this responsibility.


Gordon was quoted in “Shooting reactions reveal racial divide,” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Adam Jadhav, Jake Wagman, and Tim O’Neil. At first reading, I thought that the reporter who quoted Ben Gordon had neglected to ask him for whom he was sorry, for whom he was grieving. But then I went back and re-read an earlier section of the story, and got my answer.

Many say they are sickened by Thornton’s brand of vigilantism. But others say they’re left outside the mainstream and oppressed by unfair rules. Those people mourned Thornton and directed their anger back at Kirkwood officials.


In his recounting in “Meacham Park meeting discusses race,” Post-Dispatch reporter Tim O’Neill leaves nothing to interpretation:

“To me, Cookie Thornton is a hero. He was an athlete... He opened a business. He went to court, but the system failed him... We are sorry, we grieve, but (Kirkwood officials) share in this responsibility.”
Ending his speech to loud applause, Gordon called him “a soldier who paid the price for liberty.”

The killer’s (or is it “hero’s”?) brother, Gerald Thornton, said “This was an act of war by my brother. He had people that he was in battle with.”

Gerald Thornton has refused to “judge” his brother. English translation: He condones what he did.

And Gerald Thornton possesses expertise in such matters: He murdered a man in 1996, and did five years in prison for it, yet another victim of racially discriminatory sentencing.

If you’re a Thornton, you’ve got to “represent.” Family and racial traditions are at stake.

Charles Thornton, too, is dead.

Carrying a gun from home, Thornton approached Sgt. Biggs, who was on his way to grab a quick slice of pizza, while on duty, shot him dead, and took his weapon. Before Thornton shot Sgt. Biggs, however, the policeman managed to hit the “alert tone on his radio,” to summon backup. In the City Council chambers, Thornton entered, shouting something about “justice” and “Shoot the Mayor!” and firing away with both guns, killed Officer Ballman first.

Thornton chased white City Attorney John Hessel around the room. Hessel told Post-Dispatch reporter Steve Giegerich that he yelled, “Cookie, don’t do this, don’t kill me. I’m not going to let you do this.’ I picked up a chair and threw it at him.”

Between Thornton having to duck, as Hessel threw one chair after another at him, and stumbling over victim Kenneth Yost’s body, Hessel bought enough time, so that he was still alive when two officers responding to Sgt. Biggs’ distress signal arrived, and shot Thornton dead.

But the massacre wasn’t racial. It wasn’t racial. It wasn’t racial. Just repeat that to yourself a million times. And if that doesn’t work, sign up for some more diversity training—I’m sure you’ve already had some; haven’t we all?—so you can learn that white racism drove Charles Thornton to do what he did, even though what he did wasn’t racially motivated. And if that doesn’t work, try and wash away the contradictions, with a fifth of scotch.

Every white in the world could commit suicide, and blacks would still blame the “legacy of (white) racism” for all of their problems.

Perhaps the oddest thing about the experts and police chiefs and journalists and tenured professors who constantly tell us that these black-on-white atrocities aren’t racially motivated, is that blacks don’t believe that for a second. They know they are racially motivated, they say so, and they celebrate them for it.

As Gerald Thornton said of his brother, he went to war. You may not be interested in race war, but race war is interested in you.

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