ST. LOUIS — As officers from all over the city and elsewhere flocked to the hospitals where two of their comrades were taken following a shooting, some officers had to keep their minds focused on someone else – the man who shot them.
They worked for 12 hours as the accused shooter, Thomas Kinworthy, kept himself barricaded inside a stranger’s house in the Tower Grove neighborhood.
They talked to him.
They guarded the streets surrounding the area.
They kept their eyes fixed on the house, ready to take action should he take another shot at one of them or anyone else in the area.
And they supported each other.
Some of them shared their experiences from that night with me.
And I’ve pieced together their perspectives to provide as complete a picture as possible of how Kinworthy was captured alive after he allegedly shot or shot at a homeless person in the Tower Grove neighborhood and essentially hijacked a couple’s home there.
When it first began, officers had no idea who the man was – or how to reach him.
The house didn’t have a landline.
Then, Kinworthy shouted a cellphone number to officers. It was his wife’s. She was in Florida, where they live. She gave police his cellphone number.
For the first few hours, officers told me Kinworthy picked up his phone and talked to officers outside.
Talking to him about his wife and children only agitated him more.
A few times, he told officers he would come out, but his tone changed when the SWAT team arrived.
He didn’t want the police to kill him, but he kept firing shots inside the house.
At some point, he yelled to officers that his phone had broken, so they started using a speaker to talk to him. They couldn’t make out most of his responses.
A few times he made promises to come out, giving officers a certain amount of time.
The minutes would pass.
So would another promise to surrender.
There were a few more shots.
Officers outside thought he might have committed suicide – as barricaded suspects often do.
Officers I spoke to about the experience said the idea of Kinworthy being taken alive weighed heavily on them.
The homeowners described him to police as a white guy with a mohawk.
Officers – Black and white – talked about how if he survived, there would be criticism from those who believe if he were Black, the outcome would be different.
But they also knew that killing him if he didn’t threaten their lives would be murder.
They told me that they worried there would be no winning this one.
It continued to play out.
And they kept their minds on their main objective: ensuring no one else – police or civilian – got hurt that night.
They sent in tear gas.
Then, they heard Kinworthy coughing.
That’s how officers knew he was still alive.
The gas was so dense that even officers stationed outside were gagging. They couldn’t believe Kinworthy wasn’t coming out.
Then, there was silence again.
Officers sent in a robot with a camera. It tried to climb the stairs to a second floor where police believed Kinworthy was, but it fell.
Hours had passed since the last time officers heard shots. They speculated he must have run out of ammo.
Ultimately, the SWAT team stormed in.
The SWAT officers found Kinworthy in a windowless unventilated room. That’s how police believe he was able to tolerate the gas for so long.
He fought them. His mugshot shows some of the scrapes and bruises he got during the struggle.
He never talked about shooting the officers that night, or explained why.
Another 12 hours went by.
Officer Tamarris Bohannon died following surgery for a gunshot wound to the head.
The officers who worked the standoff told me they take some comfort in knowing no one else was murdered that night.