KIRKWOOD, Mo. -- The nephew of a suburban St. Louis man who opened fire at a city council meeting six years ago, killing five and severely wounding the mayor, is running for a seat on that same governing body.
Jayson Thornton, whose uncle Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton stormed into Kirkwood’s council chamber on Feb. 7, 2008, and started shooting before being fatally shot at the scene, is one of five to file for three Kirkwood council spots on the April ballot, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“It doesn’t matter what my name is,” Thornton said. “This is where I’m from; this is where my father is from; this is where my uncles are from. It’s the beauty of living in America.”
Thornton said he doesn’t want the city defined by the “terrible tragedy.”
“I don’t want that to be what people see when they put the word Kirkwood into Google,” he said.
Thornton, 30, is focusing on many of the same issues that had been important to his uncle, especially the racial tension in the city’s Meacham Park neighborhood.
Thornton, his wife and children live in the mostly black enclave in the predominantly white community. On the night of the rampage, Cookie Thornton entered the council chamber wearing a sandwich board sign that read: “The unrest in Meacham Park will continue until the racist plantation mentality of the Kirkwood officials are addressed.”
The younger Thornton’s campaign slogan is: “One Kirkwood, moving forward.”
“There are some people in Kirkwood who have never even been (in Meacham Park),” he said. “If anything, I want to unify everyone.”
Running for office with a last name and face that summon memories of one of the town’s saddest chapters is a challenge, Thornton said, but so far he has had no problems.
Mayor Arthur J. McDonnell was there on the night of the rampage when Cookie Thornton burst into the meeting. McDonnell and two other council members escaped the gunfire before police fatally shot Thornton.
McDonnell said he recently had lunch with Jayson Thornton and Cookie’s name never came up.
“Cookie Thornton is a separate person,” McDonnell said. “(Jayson) had nothing to do with that. He has great courage to step up.”
Thornton will appear Monday night at a forum at Kirkwood’s Community Center, alongside fellow candidates Timothy E. Griffin, Bob Sears, Paul Ward and Gary Reim.