Slain Kirkwood official remembered as faithful public servant at funeral

Thursday, February 14, 2008

KIRKWOOD, Mo. -- City council member Connie Karr was remembered Wednesday as a faithful public servant who was determined to serve the common good.

Karr, 51, was one of five Kirkwood city employees gunned down last week by a disgruntled resident.

"Connie embraced that call to action and helped us see the importance of having a role in public life," the Rev. Tom Molini said at her funeral Mass.

"Whether it was showing a concern for zoning issues and how they affect others in the larger area, or holding oneself accountable for one's actions, ... Connie was active in public life."

More than 700 mourners packed St. Gerard Majella Church here. Their parked cars lined Dougherty Ferry Road half a mile from the church.

Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton killed officer William Biggs Jr. outside of city hall, then went into a city council meeting and killed police officer Tom Ballman, Public Works director Ken Yost, Karr and Councilman Michael H.T. Lynch.

Police shot and killed Thornton.

The funeral for Biggs was also held Wednesday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Webster Groves.

Fellow officers, relatives and friends remembered him as a prankster, leader and family man who loved the outdoors and who took pride in protecting his community.

Biggs was known in town as the "Mayor of Meacham Park" because he patrolled that neighborhood of Kirkwood.

Thornton's funeral is today. Services for Ballman, Yost and Lynch were earlier this week.

Mayor Mike Swoboda was shot and remains in critical condition. A newspaper reporter, Todd Smith, was shot and has been released from the hospital.

Thornton, the 52-year-old shooter, had amassed as much as $20,000 in city parking and permit citations on his demolition and paving business.

He criticized elected officials and was arrested twice inside city hall for disorderly conduct.

Thornton filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that his free-speech rights were violated because of the arrests. A judge last month threw out the suit, saying the city acted reasonably.

Friends say Thornton had felt singled out as a black contractor in mostly white Kirkwood.

Harriet Patton, president of the neighborhood association in mostly black Meacham Park, where Thornton lived, said Karr was working to help heal the racial divide between the white and black communities.

She was also among those urging city administrators to find a way to appease Thornton.

Karr was running for mayor. Postcards from her campaign were still arriving this week, eerily, in the mailboxes of residents, who were invited to bring her issues and questions to a meeting this month.

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