John Thornton, mayor of a troubled Illinois village outside of East St. Louis, was shot and killed in his car early Thursday morning.
According to local KMOX radio, Thornton was shot twice in the chest from close range behind the wheel of his car, and was pronounced dead on arrival at Kenneth Hall Hospital in East St. Louis.
Police have arrested a man who they believe was driving the getaway car; a second suspect is still at large, says a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.
The Post-Dispatch reports that Mayor Thornton was on his way home from an overnight shift at his other job as foreman for the Metro East Sanitation District, where he mans a pumping station. He had worked there for 20 years.
Kim McAfee, a Washington Park detective, speculated to the P-D about the events leading up to the murder:
McAfee, the Washington Park detective, was asked by reporters at the scene to comment on a possible motive for the shooting. McAfee said the mayor was known to check the community early in the morning, to make sure police were out. Thornton was the type of person to stop if flagged down and give money to the needy along the streets, McAfee said.
McAfee said Thornton almost certainly knew the killer.
"I'm not going to say he (the killer) was on drugs but when you're on drugs and drinking, life doesn't mean anything to you," McAfee told reporters.
Washington Park, a city of around 5,400, is ten miles east of St. Louis. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that the village has struggled recently:
Washington Park declared bankruptcy in July and several village employees, including Thornton's former assistant, have been prosecuted by the federal government for stealing from the village. Washington Park is an older urban community bordered by Interstate 64 and East St. Louis, noted for its highly visible strip clubs.
Still, Mayor Thornton was proud of Washington Park. The News-Democrat quotes Village Treasurer Loretta Brock-Longstreet saying, "He was so happy and he was working to get all the negative stuff associated with the village straightened out."
The mayor is survived by his wife and six children.