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Mayor Killed, Two Council Members Wounded In Meeting Gunfire

December 11, 1986 GMT

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) _ A 69-year-old man who had complained about a backed-up sewer walked into a City Council meeting and opened fire, killing the mayor and seriously wounding two council members, witnesses and officials said.

Mayor Edward King, 53, who was shot in the head at point-blank range, died Wednesday night at University Hospitals in Iowa City, about 60 miles from this southeastern Iowa city of 7,300 residents, said hospital spokesman Dean Borg.

Councilwoman JoAnn Sankey, 39, was in critical condition today at University Hospitals with a head wound and two chest wounds, and Councilman Ronald Dupree, 44, was in stable condition after being shot in the head, neck and arm, officials said.

Ralph Orin Davis surrendered in the council chambers after the shootings, police said. He was brought before Magistrate David McCoid this morning and charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Davis stood with arms folded during the 10-minute hearing and twice answered ″Yes, sir,″ when asked if he understood the charges against him. He did not enter a plea and McCoid scheduled another hearing for Dec. 19.

McCoid set bond at $100,000 on each of the attempted murder charges and $500,000 on the murder charge. Davis laughed when McCoid asked him if he could pay the cash bond.

Deputies and police officers brought Davis into the courtroom, where he stood for about five minutes while news photographers took his picture. Davis did not respond to reporters’ questions before the hearing started.

Witnesses said the gunman apparently waited for the meeting to end, walked in, pointed his gun at the council members and said, ″You sons of bitches,″ before shooting Dupree. He shot King in the head, then turned on Ms. Sankey.

″It kind of appeared he was waiting for the meeting to be over,″ said Mary Wittmer, a reporter for radio station KILJ. ″It kind of looked like he knew what he wanted to do when he walked in.

″He walked up to the ledge of the council seats. He walked to about two feet in front of Councilman Dupree and fired head-on at the councilman. I saw the city attorney. He got up, reached across the table and tried to grab the gun out of his right hand. At that time, I realized it was not a cap gun.″

When police arrived, the gunman was sitting quietly in the front row of audience chairs, said Ms. Wittmer. He put his hands on his head and laid down on the floor when officers shouted at him to put down his gun, she said.

″I saw that at the time, the mayor was lying on his back and was making noises and little shakes and shivers,″ Ms. Wittmer said.

The gunman had been to two previous council meetings complaining about his backed-up sewer and asking the council to pay for damages to his basement, she said. At the last meeting, he called members ″depraved″ and stalked out.

″He kind of was getting really disgruntled,″ she said.

The other council members were not shot.

Davis had returned to Mount Pleasant three or four years ago after his mother died, said neighbor Dave Heaton. ″He was a character, a reactionary guy. I never felt comfortable around him.″

Davis wasn’t employed, and used to drive around town on a motorcycle with his dog, Heaton said.

Henry County Medical Examiner Dr. Warren Scott said King was shot above the right eye. He said the bullet ″almost certainly″ pierced King’s brain, though he didn’t have X-rays to prove it.

King had been mayor for about 10 years, Scott said. ″He’s a very public- spirited individual and a fine gentleman. I don’t know why anyone would want to do this.″

″This is a quiet town,″ Heaton said. ″I don’t understand it.″

King was director of personnel at Metromail Corp. in Mount Pleasant. Ms. Sankey is a dietitian at the Iowa Mental Health Center while Dupree is sales manager at Blue Bird Midwest, a school bus manufacturer.

King was instrumental in local economic development efforts and was credited with bringing a 760,000-square-foot Wal-Mart regional distribution center and store to the city in 1985.