City of Lawton to review security at council meetings in wake of Missouri massacre - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

City of Lawton to review security at council meetings in wake of Missouri massacre

Lawton_Six people in Kirkwood, Missouri were killed Thursday by a man with a grudge and a gun, and another American town was left wondering why. 

Police say 52-year-old Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton opened fire just after the Pledge of Allegiance during a city council meeting.  Kirkwood's Mayor remains in critical condition.  

Less than two weeks prior, a federal judge had dismissed a lawsuit brought by Thornton who claimed his free speech had been violated by Kirkwood officials who prohibited him from speaking at meetings.  Family members say his previous outbursts at meetings were triggered by what he described has harassment by police who cited him for parking his construction company vehicles outside his home.  They say they had no idea it would turn violent.

If something like this could happen in a normally quiet and law abiding town, could it happen here, too?  7News talked with Police and Lawton City Council to get their reaction to the deadly attack. 

Officials say they are definitely going to take a closer look at their security for city council meetings, and already have at least one officer, sometimes three, present at every meeting. 

Twice a month on Tuesday nights, the empty chamber often becomes packed with people, some to show support.  Others come to complain, and, they're not always nice about it.  "When we see someone we know is disgruntled and we know has come in and fussed before, we pay a little closer attention to them," says Chief Ronnie Smith of the Lawton Police Department.

City Councilman Randy Warren says keeping alert is about all officers can do.  "While we are a target of some of the unhinged personalities, we're also owned by the public," he says.  "So, we have a responsibility to remain as open, and as free access as we can.  You hope people will go up there and express their opinion with words and not with violence.  But you have to be ready some times for that."

The Chief says officers on patrol and beefed up security measures can only help so much, and when people want to carry out a violent crime - they will.  Smith says the goal, then, is to minimize casualties and injuries.  "That one time he comes he may be extra mad for some reason, so you have to watch them," says Smith.  "We've had a few over there, and I will tell you we've watched them.  We've watched them a whole lot closer than they think.  "There have been occasions where I sensed something might go on, but then I look up and see the officers move to the entrances or exits in position so they could intervene if need be."

Chief Smith says he plans to meet with the City Manager next week to review their security measures, and explore ways to ensure meetings safer.  Councilman Warren says his bigger concern is overall security and safety of employees at city hall.  He says the new city hall will have controlled access in some areas as an added layer of protection.

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