Sergeant Biggs was a “cool, calm” man who had been a cattle rancher in Colorado, before returning home to the St. Louis County area to become a Kirkwood city policeman 20 years ago.
Officer Ballman had been a Marine, a corrections officer for two years, and a Kirkwood city policeman for eight. The old Marine’s ability to defuse prison conflicts was legendary.
DPW Kenneth Yost, known both for his strict adherence to rules, and for his helpfulness towards citizens navigating the city codes, had been married for 41 years to his high school sweetheart, the former Cathy Voss.
Charles Thornton was a local businessman who owned an asphalt company. He didn’t see why he should have to obey the local parking regulations, which he deemed “racist,” and had thereby amassed 150 parking tickets for illegally parking his asphalt mixing trucks. He had taken to disrupting City Council meetings, and when he got himself arrested twice for disorderly conduct in 2006—with Officer Ballman serving as the arresting officer both times—he filed suit in Federal Court, charging that his First Amendment rights had been violated. His suit had been thrown out of court last month.
The city had considered barring Thornton from all Council meetings, but considering him a harmless nuisance, dropped the idea.
And yet, at a community meeting in a local black community, Meacham Park, Ben Gordon said,
To me, Charles Thornton is a hero. He opened a business. He went to court, but the system failed him. … We are sorry, we grieve, but (Kirkwood officials) share in this responsibility.
Gordon was quoted in “Shooting reactions reveal racial divide,” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Adam Jadhav, Jake Wagman, and Tim O'Neil. At first reading, I thought that the reporter who quoted Ben Gordon had neglected to ask him for whom he was sorry, for whom he was grieving. But then I went back and re-read an earlier section of the story, and got my answer.
Many say they are sickened by Thornton's brand of vigilantism. But others say they're left outside the mainstream and oppressed by unfair rules. Those people mourned Thornton and directed their anger back at Kirkwood officials.
Gerald Thornton has refused to “judge” his brother. English translation: He supports what he did.
And Gerald Thornton possesses expertise in such matters: He murdered a man in 1996, and did five years in prison for it, yet another victim of racially discriminatory sentencing.
If you’re a Thornton, you’ve got to “represent.” Family and racial traditions are involved.
In case you were wondering, Charles Thornton is dead.
Carrying a gun from home, Thornton approached Sgt. Biggs, who was standing on the street outside of City Hall, where the City Council was meeting, shot him dead, and took his weapon. But before Thornton shot Sgt. Biggs, the policeman managed to hit the “alert tone on his radio,” to summon backup. In the City Council chambers, Thornton entered, shouting something about “justice” and “Shoot the Mayor!”, and firing away with both guns, killed Officer Ballman first.
Thornton chased white City Attorney John Hessel around the room. Hessel told St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Steve Giegerich that he yelled, “Cookie, don't do this, don't kill me. I'm not going to let you do this.' I picked up a chair and threw it at him.”
Between Thornton having to duck, as Hessel threw one chair after another at him, and stumbling over victim Kenneth Yost’s body, Thornton was slowed down enough that Hessel was still alive when two officers responding to Sgt. Biggs’ distress signal arrived, and shot Thornton dead.
But the massacre wasn’t racial. It wasn’t racial. It wasn’t racial. Just repeat that to yourself a million times. And if that doesn’t work, sign up for some more diversity training—I’m sure you’ve already had some; haven’t we all?—so you can learn that white racism drove Charles Thornton to do what he did, even though what he did wasn’t racially motivated. And if that doesn’t work, try and wash away the contradictions, with a fifth of scotch.
Every white in the world could commit suicide, and blacks would still blame the “legacy of (white) racism” for all of their problems.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the experts and police chiefs and reporters and editors and tenured professors who constantly tell us that these black-on-white atrocities and massacres aren’t racially motivated, is that blacks don’t believe that for a second. They know they are racially motivated, they say so, and they celebrate them for it.
As Gerald Thornton said of his brother, he went to war. You may not be interested in race war, but race war is interested in you.
* * *
Five hours after I first posted this column to my blog, a reader named Chester posted the following letter, which I have reprinted, unchanged, with my response.
The city of Kirkwood did not have a racist motive with Cookie Thornton. This war goes back many years to when Kirkwood annexed Meachem Park. The citizens and businesses in meachem park were harrassed to no end by the city. My business was forced out by the city in such ways that the term war , is the best way to describe it. Kirkwood took away many peoples rights and destroyed their lives, made promises they had no intention of keeping. They used a technique I call selective code enforcement. in my case they even took my landlordsland with the promise that the city would go easy on him if he did this. For a short period of time, the code officials would back off of their trumped up code violations. but let a few months pass, and they were right back thereherrassing property owners and businesses in a gestapo like fashon. I was forced out. The city forced my landloard to evict me using this tactic. I was doing research of all the documents related to the code violations the city filed, in the kirkwood building department office when I found a handwritten note written by the head building inspector saying that my landloard would " do whatever it takes to get me out of the building" The building inspector was sitting right across from me at the table. we were discussing the various code citations against me and my laandloard when I when I told him what was on the note. he said "no way". I had the note in my hand, I turned the note around and showed it to him. he grabbed the note out of my hand crumpled it up and got up from the table and said GET OUT OF HERE and demanded that I get on the other side of the counter, out in the hallway, then he said this conversation was over and that he was calling the police. About 4 weeks later I was evicted. I was the best tennant in the building, always paid my rent on time, did things to bring the whole building up to code and helped him in many ways. I could go on and on for days, I've got 2 inches of documents that show all the abuses the city put on just me, let alone the promises the city made such as assistance to relocate and financial support. I was very lucky because I inherited some money, not a lot, but enough to relocate my business. Three times I've been caught up in the repurcussions of eminent domain and abuse of personal property rights and have gotten the short end of the stick. Am I going to go out and kill 5 people hell no, do I understand Cookie Thornton's rage ? the answer is yes. Do I understand the anger of the people of Meacham Park? the answer is yes. Should there be an investigation of the effects of Kirkwood taking over Meacham Park? the answer is YES. Do the citizens of Kirkwood have any idea what really went on with the annexation of Meacham Park and the many many human abuses at the hand of thecity of Kirkwood? the answer is NO. will they ever? the answer is NO. Is it sad that many prominent businessmen who knew Cookie and did business with him and supported him would just say "well thats Cookie" with a chuckle and hope his strife would go away? yes it is, 5 people are dead. Did anyone EVER show Cookie any support and understanding in any of these prrocedings? I think I did once,back in 1999, but it was strictly by accident because I was at the courthouse for "selective code violations" myself. I just said that the city was oversteping their bounds. Other then me, i doubt too many other people did. I could go on and on, but what I have to tell and say will fall on deaf and denying ears. Will I ever live in Kirkwood? only when there are many changes made, It is time the people of Kirkwood realize that instead of saving a few trees or saving the "historical integrety" of their neighborhood is not the most important thing. Perhaps saving the individual rights of people in all of Kirkwood would be a more noble thing to do.
My race? Does it matter?
My hopes? I hope some collage does some research on the effects of the annexation of Meacham Park and the impact it had on all of the people that were affected. I don't know for sure, but my bet is the research would not bode well for society, or the Tax increment financing lobbyist's
May God Help Us All
Thank you for writing. I have no idea whether what you say is true, or whether, even if I accepted your report regarding your particular case, it is true to the degree you say it is. I do share your hope, however, that some honest researcher—whether an academic or a journalist, or a team of same—will study the charges you have made about the Kirkwood municipal government. I also share your pessimism that that will ever happen.
I am going to append your letter to later submissions of this column, but I cannot guarantee that anyone else will publish the column.
P.S. For what it's worth, I'm sorry if the government terrorized you.
I have no reason to lie. This horrible event has brought back many memories of what happened to my wife and I, as well as many others from the late 1990's which I've put in the back of my mind and never wanted to think of again. My stomach is churning as I slowly type this reply. Thoughts that were suppressed, I will be reminded of almost every day for the rest of my life. I will remember this tragedy long after the news media is gone and the bloody carpet is removed, "With Liberty and Justice for All" and "The Golden Rule" is how I was raised. It's only a pipe dream.
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.