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Trying to find something else to read than one local news story in heavy rotation, I checked both the AP wire service via Yahoo and the BBC World News service ... only to find that the same story made it into the top news section of both: Greg Jonsson, "6 Dead in Shooting Rampage at Kirkwood City Council," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/8/08.

I bet a bunch of you were thinking that Brad'd have an opinion about what was behind this. If so, you were right. I bet a bunch of you are waiting for me to help you make sense of it. (Not all of you. Many of you, maybe even most of you, are willing to accept that when someone walks into a city government meeting and shoots at dozens of people, including the mayor, several politicians, and two cops, that it's by definition a "senseless crime" that needs no explanation. More fools, you.)

Not yet.

I want a few more facts, facts that are going to take at least a couple of days, maybe a week, for real reporters to dig out. All I have right now is speculation. Ugly speculation. Ugly speculation I'm not willing to go out on a limb about, not in my own blog, anyway, not yet. If the right questions don't get asked, and answered, over the next couple of days, then maybe I'll speculate, in hopes of prompting some reporter to go and ask the right questions of the right people.

All I'll say for now is that if your reaction was that it's impossible to believe that such a thing would happen in a nice neighborhood like Kirkwood, it tells me how little you know about Kirkwood, both its history and its recent news. On the contrary, as soon as I saw the text crawl on the screen that said that somebody had walked into and shot up a city council meeting, before I even saw which local city it was, I guessed correctly that it was Kirkwood. And I guessed correctly that the shooter would be from Meacham Park. I guessed wrong as to what the shooter's motive was, and was initially relieved. Then I realized that the truth was actually much worse, that this implied that there was yet another family in Meacham Park where one of the men had given up altogether on getting justice from the Kirkwood government or getting the courts to protect them from the city, resulting yet another black man who didn't care if he lived or died as long as someone from the Kirkwood city government died, too, for an entirely new reason. One we don't even entirely know yet. Lovely.

Learn the history of Meacham Park, especially its history since 1991. Then you'll know why I'm pretty sure that this crime was probably neither random nor senseless. (Morally and legally wrong, absolutely, and probably also very stupid. But not random, and not senseless.) And I'll have more to say about that history, and about what that history almost certainly meant to Cookie Thornton, when we know more about what his original beef with the city was.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)
While the initial news story made it out to all of us outside of the St. Louis area, I'm not sure that the follow-up investigations will be "news worthy". I hope you will keep us informed about developements that the rest of us might not hear. And thanks for posting on it.
Feb. 8th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
Meacham Park
I've found that Meacham Park was a century-old unincorporated neighborhood that was annexed (with voter approval) by Kirkwood in the early 1990's, followed by at least two issues that angered residents:
  1. Half the neighborhood was bought out from under residents using eminent domain, and replaced with a Wal-Mart and other box stores
  2. The annexation changed police jurisdictions to the Kirkwood PD, which many Meacham Park residents find less responsive to their needs
Are there other things we need to know about Meacham Park?
Feb. 8th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
That's the broad outline. The details are important, and without the details it's a bit of a white-wash, but that's the broad outline. (For one thing, "less responsive" can't be spread far enough to cover it.)
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Feb. 9th, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
I found that information too, in a blog entry, and noticed not only the pattern of economic imperialism, but the attitude of the Kirkwood-identified blogger. Especially this part:

"Fast-forwarding a few more years, it became apparent why the Kirkwood geniuses wanted [Meacham Park]. They declared eminent domain on the western one-third of Meacham Park to give to a private developer. It is exactly the kind of eminent domain use that the Supreme Court decision of a few weeks ago have people incensed. But the people who were ran out here probably thought of it as a blessing, as their only ticket out of the slum."

"Probably thought of it as a blessing", to be forced out of their homes so someone else could have more money or a more genteel neighborhood. The condescension. The assumption that a working-class black neighborhood must be a nightmarish slum.

The same blogger, a few months later, expressed disapproval of sympathizing with black people or selling them pizza.
Feb. 9th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
Well, what to you expect from a blog that used to be the mouthpiece for the local Council of Creative Citizens?
Apr. 2nd, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
Im a white male from Kirkwood and have spent very much time in the streets of Kirkwood and Meacham park. The racial profiling created by police to those just walking down the street or in my instance playing basketball at the courts of Meacham park is an automatic daily occurance. The Kirkwood police have felt the wrath of Meacham Park, but do not forget that Meacham Park is in Kirkwood which has had 3 of the highest profiled Criminal Cases in the United States since 2005 staring with Kevin Johnson, then Michael Devlin and now Cookies Thornton. Still residents of Kirkwood living on the other side of the tracks than Meacham Park still believe they live in Ken and Barbie Land with picket fences and perfect yards, failing to realize the short distance that great terror resides from them.
Feb. 9th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
I was hedging my words because I have no direct knowledge of their experience, but I've seen what happens when a police department writes off a neighborhood (and I've seen this happen with decent neighborhoods) as a slum. Yes, I would assume that "less responsive" is a horrifyingly inadequate understatement, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear some residents considering the police to be "violently hostile" or "oppressive".
Feb. 12th, 2008 02:48 am (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
Kirkwood has provided police and fire protection to MP always.
Feb. 12th, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
That's an unexpected comment, since I've heard people from varying points of view say that Meacham Park was under the jurisdiction of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department up until the early 1990's when the annexation was implemented.

Are you saying they are mistaken? What evidence do you have of this?

For that matter, why are you posting bald assertions without either evidence or identifying yourself? Why should I believe an anonymous poster on the internet over residents of the area?

I haven't heard anybody say anything one way or the other about fire protection prior to the 1990's, so for all I know you could be right about that. Fire districts don't necessarily align with police jurisdictions.

My understanding is that they were covered under the Kirkwood school district administration prior to annexation. But, again, there is no requirement for school districts to match fire districts or police districts.
May. 3rd, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
i lived in both meacham and kirkwood for 30 years it was not kirkwood police. it was policed by st louis county police kirkwood fire and we went to kirkwood schools
May. 3rd, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Meacham Park
Feb. 8th, 2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
It even made Canadian News...although most Canadians are suprised. Many consider the US to be a free-fire zone, and avoid the place. :-(

Feb. 8th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Do I take this to mean that Canadians are suprised that people in the US shooting each other was newsworthy?

I was having problems parsing what you wrote.
Feb. 8th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
ok, any opinion on the anglican mess currently going on? (i have a post with links on my blog) cause that has got to be fun...
Feb. 8th, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Score me on the "one nation, one body of laws" side. Muslims shouldn't think they're the only non-Anglicans in the UK, nor that they're the first non-Anglicans to want changes in the law. If there are particular provisions in, as they offered by way of example, inheritance law or divorce law, there's no reason they can't lobby for changes in that law, with some hope of persuading ordinary Brits and their legislators to adopt their changes or make some kind of accommodation. It's not quick, it's not certain, but it can be done. What they are never going to get is a promise that certain kinds of cases will only be heard in front of Islamic judges if one or both parties are Muslim, nor that cases involving one or more Muslims are heard under different law than everybody else.
Feb. 8th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
There's one absolutely crucial point here: this isn't a Muslim saying this, it's the head of the Anglican church. Every Muslim MP has come out to explicitly condemn the idea. Every political party has rejected the idea out of hand.

Go onto any British site, and the news there is full of people agreeing 100% that this is a stupid idea. There's the very serious prospect of the Archbishop having to step down. This is one man, and he's gone beyond the pale.

The vast majority of Brits are deeply suspicious of religion mixing with politics. A recent article in The Times suggested that out of all the British Prime Ministers of the twentieth century, only Tony Blair was 'religious' in any meaningful way. And he fostered widespread suspicion for it, and 'didn't do the God thing in public'.

The thing is ... American politics has people like this saying things like this all the time. And politicians listening, and adopting policies and language accordingly. America is far more at risk of falling to theocracy than Britain is, and it's the middle aged white Christian men who are the danger.

A rule of thumb: when politicians sketch a picture of their enemy, they're describing their own worst selves, what they would be without the checks and balances. Why else are so many 'social conservatives' caught with a gentlemen friend in a toilet cubicle?
Feb. 8th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Anglican
A separate Sharia court is not particularly bizarre or theocratic; it's a compromise that already exists in many distinctly non-Muslim or non-theocratic countries (the Philippines? Singapore?).

It's an intuitive idea that naturally results from "these people want Sharia law imposed on themselves. We want to allow them without imposing it on anyone else. What to do?"

It's still a dumb idea, but it's not a sign of insidious subtle theocratic leanings as you seem to be suggesting.
Feb. 8th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Anglican
Either we have different definitions of "theocracy" or I don't know what "separate Sharia court" means. Does this refer to a "court" people can go to voluntarily instead of taking their dispute to the government? Or does it mean something involuntary, like a real court system?
Feb. 8th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Anglican
If it says "Muslim" on your ID card, then you get the Sharia court.

Of course, how easy it is, in theory or practice, to get or remove that label depends on which country you're in. Malaysia makes it very hard to remove the label, for example, even though you can theoretically do so.
Feb. 8th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Anglican
In British common law, if both parties agree to settle the matter using a particular method (and it's not illegal or harmful blah blah) then that's how it's settled. If you want to do a Zoolander style catwalk thing where David Bowie picks the winner then that's fine. Sorry, someone said 'Malaysia'. I *think* that's what the Archbishop has in mind. If members of a community want to settle things among themselves, do that. Common sense.

The problem is if you're a third generation British Muslim woman wanting a divorce and suddenly your husband can pull Sharia law and plonk it on the table. Suddenly she's not talking about who gets the Dire Straits CD, she's his property.

It's an Archbishop. He's going to see religion as the solution, not the problem. But what he's suggesting is literally 'let Muslims be a law unto themselves', and defining that as religious law. He didn't mean it to, but it's massively unwelcome and unhelpful. It's the equivalent of saying that all Italian Americans should settle their disputes the good old fashioned mafia way.

The point is ... it's not just a minority view, he might be literally the only person in the country to hold it. And in the UK, if you're a senior religious figure it means you have *less* influence and credibility.

Routinely, once a week or more, an American religious figure will say something as absurd and he *won't* get challenged. All the Presidential candidates have made religious statements that sound absurd to British ears. None of them dare say 'look, you worship who you want, my job is to make sure interest rates and inflation are OK, the schools have roofs and teachers, the judicial system is fair, that we do some good trade deals and that bridges don't collapse'. The UK, which has a head of state who, constitutionally, was personally selected by God and compulsory religious education and services in schools, seems a whole lot better at the separation of church and state thing.
Feb. 8th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
I was one block over when the shooting started.

There was a lot of misinformation flying around, like the idea that the shooter was still out there.

The salon I was in locked their front door, and the stylist and I got an escort out to our cars. Meanwhile, other people were just walking around, yakking on their cell phones, totally oblivious.

Since Kirkwood Rd. was blocked by approximately 598341 cop cars, I took the side streets until I *thought* I was clear, then got back on Lindbergh - only to find they had blocked the entrance to 44; why I don't know. Had to take Watson down to Elm to be confident I was clear of the mess.
Feb. 8th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
standard operating procedure in the event someone else involved was fleeing the scene....
Feb. 8th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
While on my way to work today, I heard this on either CNN or Fox News (not sure which)......

According to one of the shooter's brothers, he had been ticketed repeatedly for keeping construction equipment in his driveway. Equipment, his brother says, that he did get permits for, but was ticketed anyway. When he went into court on the matter, while he wasn't fined, they also apparently wouldn't clear up the tickets either.

His brother likened the shooter's actions to a "war", and seemed to infer that his brother was driven to this action by the people in the city government. He certainly didn't seem any too sorry about the whole thing either.
Feb. 8th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
I had just quoted myself yesterday: "If you oppress people long enough, they will try to kill you," and then read about the Kirkwood thing a hand full of hours later. I got a kind of 'little voice' shudder from that.

The news reports are all pretty vague on what drove this man to violence. I look forward to hearing whatever you dig up. There is clearly more than meets the eye here.

Feb. 8th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
This is the kind of thing that makes me worry about my mom, because she's so politically active. My mother is a pacifist, but sometimes I'm afraid that she'll be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I know a little about the Meacham Park issue, so this shooting doesn't really surprise me. I'm curious to find out more about the details, though.
Feb. 8th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
will be looking forward to your analysis
Feb. 11th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
Cookie Thornton
I am from Meacham Park and knew cookie all my life. The man was not mentally sick but emotionally killed. We go through so much with the KWPD and the city government that it's ridiculous. Yeah COOKIE may be morally wrong but what else did he have left. He sacrificed his life so the voice of his community could be heard. And if the news wanted to report the truth they would let it be know that all this started with his father not him. He just inherited the headache when his father was to old to run things. They owned land across the street from their house where they initially parked their vehicles. That land was taken from them by eminent domain strike one. A brand new house now sits on it. And yes those residents knew and were friends with COOKIE. As his last written words said THE TRUTH WILL BE KNOW IN THE END.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )