KIRKWOOD, Mo. (AP) – A gunman carrying a grudge against City Hall left a suicide note on his bed warning “the truth will come out in the end,” before he went on a deadly shooting spree at a council meeting, his brother told The Associated Press on Friday.

Arthur Thornton, 42, said in an interview at the family’s home he knew when he read the one-line note that Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton was the man who stormed the meeting Thursday night and killed five people before police shot him dead.

“I want to say for my family that I’m am truly, truly sorry,” Arthur Thornton said, breaking into tears. “I’m so sorry. This didn’t have to happen.”

Friends and relatives said the dead gunman had a long-standing feud with the city, and he had lost a federal free-speech lawsuit against the St. Louis suburb just 10 days earlier. At earlier meetings, he said he had received 150 tickets against his business.

The victims were identified Friday as Public Works Director Kenneth Yost, Officer Tom Ballman, Officer William Biggs and council members Michael H.T. Lynch and Connie Karr. Flowers and balloons were placed outside City Hall Friday in their honor.

At a midday prayer vigil at the local United Methodist Church, a bell tolled six times – once for each of the dead – as hundreds of mourners held white candles honoring them.

“As far too often, violence divides us,” the Rev. David Bemmett told the throng. “Let us not let the actions of one man define who we are. We are for more than this.”

The city’s mayor, Mike Swoboda, was in critical condition at an intensive care unit, St. John’s Mercy Medical Center spokeswoman Lynne Beck said. Another victim, Suburban Journals newspaper reporter Todd Smith, was in satisfactory condition, Beck said.

“This is such an incredible shock to all of us. It’s a tragedy of untold magnitude,” Tim Griffin, Kirkwood’s deputy mayor, said at a news conference. “The business of the city will continue and we will recover but we will never be the same.”

The meeting had just started when the shooter opened fire, said Janet McNichols, a reporter covering the meeting for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The gunman killed one officer outside City Hall, then walked into the council chambers, shot another and continued pulling the trigger, St. Louis County Police spokeswoman Tracy Panus said Friday. A witness said the gunman yelled “Shoot the mayor!” as he fired shots in the chambers.

Police said he first fired with a handgun he brought, then used one of the slain officer’s pistols to continue the rampage.

Thornton was often a contentious presence at the council’s meetings; he had twice been convicted of disorderly conduct for disrupting meetings in May 2006.

The city had ticketed Thornton’s demolition and asphalt business, Cookco Construction, for parking his commercial vehicles in the neighborhood, said Ron Hodges, a friend who lives in the community. The tickets were “eating at him,” Hodges said.

“He felt that as a black contractor he was being singled out,” said Hodges, who is black. “I guess he thought mentally he had no more recourse. That’s not an excuse.”

Franklin McCallie, a longtime friend of Thornton’s, said Thornton once told him that the city would drop the fines, which totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if he “would just follow the law.”

“In our long talks, I begged him to do this,” McCallie said in an e-mail to the AP on Friday. “But Cookie said it was a matter of principle with him and that he wanted to sue the city for millions of dollars.”

McCallie called Thornton’s deadly rampage “a brutal and inexcusable act, the act of a person who was not in his right mind when he did it.”

Thornton had been forcibly removed from chambers before. Swoboda had said the council considered banning Thornton from future meetings but decided against it.

In a federal lawsuit stemming from his arrests during two meetings just weeks apart, Thornton insisted that Kirkwood officials violated his constitutional rights to free speech by barring him from speaking at the meetings.

But a judge in St. Louis tossed out the lawsuit Jan. 28, writing that “any restrictions on Thornton’s speech were reasonable, viewpoint neutral, and served important governmental interests.”

Another brother, Gerald Thornton, said the legal setback may have been his brother’s final straw. “He has (spoken) on it as best he could in the courts, and they denied all rights to the access of protection and he took it upon himself to go to war and end the issue,” he said.



Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Betsy Taylor and Cheryl Wittenauer in St. Louis contributed to this report.

AP-ES-02-08-08 1540EST


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