Residents keep faith in Kirkwood

Amy Oslica / Graphic Designer

After a shooting in Kirkwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, students from the area said they don’t think less of their town. On Feb. 7, a man entered the Kirkwood City Council meeting and opened fire, killing six people. Senior Mandy Wagner said her father was present at the city council meeting when the shooting occurred. “He said a man came in and started shooting,” Wagner said. The man was angry about his parking tickets worth thousands of dollars that he believes were racially based, said MU sophomore Kristin Morrison, who lives near Kirkwood. A friend of Morrison’s father attended high school with the shooter, which is how Morrison heard about his motives. Morrison said Kirkwood is a quaint, family-oriented town. “This is absolutely devastating,” Morrison said. “Kirkwood is a great place to raise a family, and there are not enough Kirkwoods left in the world.” Wagner said people think of Kirkwood as a wealthy, small town. “This changes my opinion a little about Kirkwood,” she said. “It is less safe but I would still love to raise a family there.” Freshman Allison Maurer said she still thinks of Kirkwood as a safe place. “Yes, this doesn’t put Kirkwood in the best light, especially since in the past year they have been in the spotlight for horrific things,” she said in an e-mail. “However, if anyone looked at the bad things that a community has to offer, everyone would move to Canada or something of that nature.” Kevin Johnson, a black graduate of Kirkwood High School, shot and killed a white police officer in 2005. Last week, Johnson, 22, was sentenced to the death penalty. Johnson’s Myspace.com profile says he killed the police officer after the officer spent time looking for him while Johnson’s younger brother was collapsed in the house and eventually died. While many are grieving about the shooting at Kirkwood, Westboro Baptist Church, the church of Fred Phelps, the pastor best known for protesting military funerals, is picketing the funerals of those who were killed in the shooting. The church said in a news release they believe that the shooting is punishment for Kirkwood’s sins. “WBC will picket their funerals,” stated a news release from the church. “They died for Kirkwood’s sins.” In the wake of the Kirkwood City Council meeting, Columbia officials said they were looking into higher securing measures for its own meetings. Although the city hasn’t formalized any specific plans yet, Columbia Communications Director Toni Messina said the city is looking into its options. Messina said the city has many things to consider when looking into higher security. “What, if anything, will offer a greater level of protection? Do we need additional police officers, who are visible? Do we need to look at technology like metal detectors? What’s the trade off between higher levels of security and the openness of government?” Messina said, listing questions city officials will be considering over the next several weeks. “Cities all over the country have been asking those kind of questions, and they have been since Sept. 11.” Columbia Police Officer Tim Thomason said he hasn’t gotten word from the city about high security measures yet, but said he wouldn’t be involved until a formal study was requested.

— Senior Staff Writer Jewels Phraner contributed to this report.

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