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GUNMAN ATTACKS COUNCIL

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

A gunman with a history of acrimony against city leaders stormed a City Council meeting Thursday night, killing two police officers and three other people before police fatally shot him, authorities said.

At least one council member, Connie Karr, was among the dead, and Mayor Mike Swoboda was among two other people who were injured, one critically, according to officials and a reporter present at the meeting.

The violence began about 7 p.m. when the man, identified by police as Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, approached a police officer in a parking lot near a police station in the St. Louis suburb and shot and killed the officer, said police spokeswoman Tracy Panus.

Moments later, the man appeared inside City Hall, a short walk away. He shot another police officer, then fatally shot three other people who were at the council meeting, Panus said. He yelled "Shoot the mayor" as he began firing, she said. Two others were wounded before police killed the gunman, she said.

A correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Janet McNichols, said about 30 people were in the council chambers. 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, the Associated Press and New York Times was used.

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