The owner of an Illinois storage lot is dismissing police claims that a raid of Granite City business on the five-year anniversary of his brother’s deadly rampage during a Missouri city council meeting was merely coincidence.
Investigators on Thursday seized what they say were three suspected stolen vehicles and a tractor-trailer from Paul Thornton’s Scrap Solutions in the 5500 block of Dial Drive. Thornton, who has not been charged, said he can document that he owns the vehicles and that a towing company owns the semi rig.
The raid came a half decade since Thornton’s brother, Charles “Cookie” Thornton, 52, opened fire at Kirkwood City Hall, gunning down two police officers, two council members and the St. Louis suburb’s public works director before being killed by police. Kirkwood’s mayor, who was shot in the head during the gunfire, died months later.
Gary Brewer Sr., head of a regional auto-theft task force, said that officers executed a search warrant at the auto storage lot, said Thursday’s seizures of the vehicles was a coincidence, insisting he wasn’t aware of Paul Thornton’s connection to his late brother. Brewer said the lot was used to dismantle stolen cars.
Authorities said the unlicensed scrap yard stripped the cars of catalytic convertors, radiators, tires and wheels.
Paul Thornton, who was not at the lot when police arrived Thursday, questioned the timing, pressing that “every police officer in the world knows when other police officers get killed.”
Before his 2008 rampage, Charles "Cookie" Thornton had a contentious relationship with Kirkwood city officials that dated back years. As the owner of a small contracting company, he was cited multiple times for violating municipal codes, and he was arrested twice in City Hall for disorderly conduct when he criticized officials during council meetings.
A group of police dedicated to recovering the vehicles said there’s been a sharp increase in thefts since Missouri relaxed its scrap metal laws for older vehicles.
Metro East Auto Theft Task Force member Gary Brewer said the lax laws make it easier for theft to go unnoticed.
“Simply just having a handwritten bill of sale,” said Metro East Auto Theft Task Force member Gary Brewer, “and it’s our belief that that’s what caused the increase of unrecovered motor vehicles.”
Members of the Sheriff’s Department were carrying assault weapons. One deputy told News 4 the firepower was in case the owner shows up.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.