Perspective: Senseless Shootings in Kirkwood, MO

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What were you doing last Thursday evening at 7PM? An ordinary night probably for most of us ordinary people.

There was a city council meeting at the Kirkwood, Missouri City Hall, A zoning meeting. Ordinary stuff. And then something far out of the ordinary, something mind numbing happened in a town that describes itself as “where community and spirit meet.”

A gunman who had recently lost a lawsuit against the city of Kirkwood who had banned him from speaking at city council meetings, opened fire, killing five people before he was shot to death. The mayor, Mike Swoboda was wounded and is in critical condition. Suburban Journal reporter Todd Smith was shot in the hand.

Those killed were Police Officer William Biggs, Police Officer Tom Ballman, Councilwoman Connie Karr, Councilman Mike Lynch and Public Works Director Kenneth Yost. I didn’t know any of them but I would imagine they were not expecting that on February 7th that they had a rendezvous with death.

Officer Biggs was on his way to get a pizza when he crossed paths with the shooter. One minute he was probably thinking ordinary pizza thoughts as he headed to IMO’s. The next minute he was gunned down but managed the extraordinary as he died; he pushed the alert button on his radio and probably saved many lives in the community of Kirkwood.

Officer Biggs died a hero; no doubt those who knew him and loved him and miss him would have preferred that he had lived an ordinary Kirkwood police officer.
We live in a town that borders Kirkwood. My sister raised her family there and her daughter, my niece, lives there now. Kirkwood IS a community. A community that does not Bowl Alone but seems to personify the currency of social capital: trust, community, involvement, neighbors, belonging. Kirkwood has annual festivals and a hundred year old football rivalry with neighboring Webster Groves that is the subject of a recent book, The Turkey Day Game.

As I read about the lives of those gunned down, they stood in stark, tragic contrast to the shooter who seemed to believe that the community was against him and that he was “at war” with Kirkwood.

According to his brother, he left a “suicide note” stating “the truth will come out in the end.” 

The truth as I see it is captured by the words of the Deputy Mayor Thomas Griffin as reported in the New York Times : “This is a tragedy of untold magnitude.”

Earlier today I had to run a quick errand to Ace Hardware, just across Manchester less than a mile from home. My mother asked me to get her some lunch at the Daily Bread. 
As I walked to my car I noticed a number of people walking across the parking lot towards Manchester. Then I noticed car lights; finally realizing as I got to my car that there were hundred of police cars from all over the city driving in a procession down Manchester Road.

I sat in my car for over a half an hour, traffic halted in every direction as the funeral procession for Officer Thomas F. Ballman drove from his home in Ballwin to Kirkwood City Park. I used my Blackberry camera to take the picture above. It was something to see….

 Bob McCarty Writes has photos on Fickr of “the sights and sounds of Kirkwood the morning after the shooting.”

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