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6 KILLED AT COUNCIL SESSION

A man fatally shoots two police officers and three other people before he is killed by officers.

A gunman opened fire at a City Council meeting Thursday night, killing two police officers and three other people before law enforcers fatally shot him, authorities said.

The gunman rushed the council chambers in suburban St. Louis and began firing as he yelled "Shoot the mayor," according to St. Louis County police spokesman Tracy Panus. At least one council member, Connie Karr, was among the dead, and two other people were injured, including Mayor Mike Swoboda, according to officials and a reporter present at the meeting.

Kirkwood police fatally shot the gunman.

The gunman killed one officer outside City Hall, then walked into the chambers and shot another, Panus said. He continued firing in the chambers.

A correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified the man as Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, a man she knew from covering the council.

The reporter, Janet McNichols, said about 30 people were in the council chambers at the time of the shooting. She said that police Officer Tom Ballman was shot in the head, as was public works director Kenneth Yost, and that Swoboda was wounded. She said council member Michael H.T. Lynch also was shot.

Thornton was not a stranger to the council. In May 2006, he was handcuffed and pulled from a meeting. He was charged with disorderly conduct and released.

McNichols said he often aimed his ire at the mayor and at Yost.

Late last month, a federal judge in St. Louis dismissed a lawsuit in which Thornton, representing himself, claimed that Kirkwood officials violated his free speech rights by prohibiting him from speaking out at meetings.

Information from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was used in this report.

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