Gunman Kills 5 People at City Council Meeting

“Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton, 52, was well-known in Kirkwood, a quiet, middle-class town west of St. Louis. He frequently disrupted council meetings to protest what he called persecution by the mayor and the city attorney. In 2006, he had to be removed from a meeting in handcuffs; he was convicted of disorderly conduct.”

I think most of you know that I work for municipal government here in North Carolina. I used to attend a lot of council meetings. I liked the carnival atmosphere and the crazies (and Durham has it’s share of crazies believe me. I once was walking through a mostly deserted second floor and bumped right into Victoria Peterson and Michael Peterson… talk about your freak show!)

These days I try to stay away from council meetings, and the reasons are largely related to what happened in Missouri. For some reason, certain people believe dealing with local government gives them an inherent right to behave in the most uncivil and grossly inappropriate fashion. It is not uncommon to see people like “Cookie” – apparently a sweatheart in his daily life – go ballistic and rail against public officials. This may seem a strange comment coming from me, I have often been guilty of letting my emotions get the best of me. But I never take these issues personnally. There is no desire in me whatsoever to mete out justice against any individual who has been a player in the affairs of the last 30 years.

As I say, I now mostly avoid council meetings. It is a strained environment and I value my life – increasingly strained with a tanking economy. Foreclosures are up, there’ve been layoffs locally… a climate ripe for someone to blame some government official. I have always been hyper-aware that someone might just snap and I’ll be that guy holding up a chair to fend off an automatic weapon. But it doesn’t even have to be violence, actually it’s the verbal abuse I find most offensive. I just don’t like to be party to any event where these people have a podium, it’s too toxic.


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