A Terrible Night in the Queen of the Suburbs

Kirkwood, Missouri. Middle-America. Queen of the Suburbs. A good place to raise a family. A nice community. Good people.

Kirkwood is the kind of place where some folks still don’t lock their doors when they are home, whether inside or outside cutting grass or gardening. Every spring, police warn residents to watch out for the gypsies who pass through the St. Louis area, running into suburban homes and grabbing wallets, purses, and other valuables of these trusting residents.

“I don’t worry about that.”

This is a safe area. Tree-lined streets. Quiet neighborhoods. Lots of churches. Educated citizens. Family-oriented. A peaceful place.

But bad things do happen…even in nice places like Kirkwood.

A lone gunman goes to city hall looking for the mayor. He’s carrying a gun.The citizen has been described as a disgruntled business man “locally known” to city officials. He has a long history of being unruly at public meetings. Outspoken. A local character who was described by some as a supporter of the community.

The gunman is an African-American who often alluded to a “plantation mentality” in the city hall. He had long-running disputes with the officials. His mother is interviewed on TV and she says he was an educated man. She considers this “an act of God.” She says the city officials pushed him too far.Apparently the shooter killed a policeman behind the local Imo’s pizza, then went into city hall and shot another seven people. So far a total of six are dead. Plus the gunman.

For many years, up until early January 2007, Michael Devlin was a manager at this same Imo’s. The local cops knew the quiet pizza man long before he was arrested for kidnapping two young boys. Devlin held one of them for more than four years in his Kirkwood apartment. Quiet Kirkwood. “This just doesn’t happen here.”Devlin grew up in the other St. Louis Queen of the Suburbs, Webster Groves.

We can’t believe it. This is shocking.

Every Thanksgiving for the past 100 years, the two high school football teams from Webster and Kirkwood battle for the Frisco Bell in the Turkey Day game.

Tradition. Family values.

Earlier this week, a local radio host goes on the air and threatens to take an AK-47 and start shooting from the roof at the headquarters of Ameren, the local electric utility company, because his power failed during the Super Bowl. He thinks he’s funny. He mocks an African-American Ameren vice president. Emmis Communications suspends him for two weeks.

No matter how high his ratings are, it shouldn’t be about the money. And it’s not the timing, it’s the seriousness of the threat. It’s the senselessness of the comments. There shouldn’t be any question about the punishment. Zero tolerance. Silence him. He’s not funny. These two stories aren’t really related. They just occured the same week.

Kirkwood Road is now eerily quiet tonight.

Senseless murders. In a quiet suburb. Where things like this aren’t supposed to happen. Unfortunately, they do.


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