Mayor,2 police officers, 2 bystanders murdered at town meeting

A gunman opened fire at a Missouri city council meeting.

KIRKWOOD, Mo. ? Two police officers were among five people shot and killed Thursday night by a gunman who opened fire at a city council meeting in this St. Louis suburb, police said.

A total of seven people were shot, including the mayor and several city officials, before police shot and killed the gunman, though it is unclear which officials are among the dead.

The gunman was identified as Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who was attending the meeting.

MyFOXStLouis, citing a local newspaper, reports that Thornton had a history of disruptive activity at council meetings. Thornton, a local contractor and a black man, repeatedly accused the city of racism and discrimination in citing him for unlicensed work, and he even sued the city for civil rights violations but recently lost the suit, the TV station reported.

Thornton first shot a police officer outside the city council chambers before walking inside and opening fire, police said in a brief news conference.

The Post-Dispatch reporter said the 7 p.m. meeting had just started when the shooter rushed into the council chambers yelling and began opening fire with at least one weapon. He started yelling "shoot the mayor" while walking around and firing, hitting a police officer first, the reporter said.

The reporter, Janet McNichols, also said the shooter fired at the city attorney, who tried to fight off the attacker by throwing chairs. The shooter then moved behind desk where the council sits and fired more shots at council members.

About 30 people were in the council chambers at the time of the shooting, the reporter said.

Dozens of emergency vehicles were on the scene and an area of several blocks was cordoned off along a busy north-south corridor around the city hall.

Kirkwood is about 20 miles southwest of downtown St. Louis, just inside the I-270 loop. City Hall is located in a quiet area filled with condominiums, eateries and shops, and is not far from a dance studio and train station.

Mary Linehares, a teacher who lives about four blocks from City Hall, described the town as quiet and eclectic.

"It's like a small town in St. Louis," said Mary, who walked down to the scene with her husband, Jim. "You can call it Mayberry."