The City of Kirkwood faced a tragic night a decade ago, when a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a city hall meeting, leaving six people dead and two others injured. The shooter, Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, was a disgruntled resident of Meacham Park, a predominately black neighborhood in Kirkwood.
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the issues raised by the shooting at Kirkwood City Hall and how they may have been addressed.
Joining the discussion were David Bennett, senior pastor at Kirkwood United Methodist Church, Jeffrey Croft, senior pastor at Harrison Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, and Maggie Duwe, member of the Kirkwood City Council who was on the Kirkwood Human Rights Commission for five years.
Listen to the full discussion:
"That night changed everything and, for me anyway, I had to be part of the solution or I couldn’t stand what happened,” Duwe said.
The incident opened an old wound centered on race relations between Meacham Park and the rest of Kirkwood. Croft said the issues go beyond just 10 years ago.
“There has to be an awakening to the fact that there are, have been race relations issue in Kirkwood for basically as long as Kirkwood has existed,” Croft said. The relationship between the city and the neighborhood were “boiling” due to the annexation of Meacham Park, lack of diversity and resources for the low-income neighborhood.
Bennett said the fatal shooting led to accommodation for much needed conversations about race reconciliation. After the incident, Bennett was asked if the Kirkwood United Methodist Church would hold the funeral of Thornton.
“It initially was because we had a large enough facility to accommodate, but for us it became an opportunity to begin the process of starting the conversation of how we can address issues of black and white in Kirkwood,” Bennet said. The church could accommodate up to 500 people, but more than 700 people showed up to the funeral.
Croft said as the community reflects on the incident, a lot of relationships have been formed that otherwise would not have come together in the same place.
“The city [of Kirkwood] and the relationship with the individuals has changed,” Croft said. “We still have a distance to go but we can look back and see that, out of this, there were some things that have taken place that we are really pleased with and are proud of.”
What:Kirkwood Shooting Remembrance Ceremony
When: Feb. 7, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Steps on east side of Kirkwood City Hall, 139 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis. MO 63122
What: Kirkwood Tragedy 10 Year Anniversary Prayer Service
When: Feb. 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Kirkwood United Methodist Church, 201 W. Adams Ave, St. Louis, MO 63122
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.