By Calvin Palmer
In his final phone call to his mother, gunman Omar Thornton told his mother that he had shot five racists who were bothering him. Thornton then killed himself.
Police say Thornton went on the rampage killing eight work colleagues and wounding two others because he had been forced to resign after been caught on video stealing beer from the Connecticut beer distribution center where he worked.
Thornton’s girlfriend said he shared evidence of racial harassment with her — photos of racist bathroom graffiti and a surreptitiously monitored conversation allegedly involving company managers.
Thornton carried two 9 mm handguns to Hartford Distributors, in Manchester, hidden in his lunch box yesterday morning and left a shotgun in his car, police said.
At a disciplinary hearing, he watched video that showed him stealing beer and then resigned after being asked whether he wanted to quit or be fired.
Thornton then asked for a drink of water and went to a kitchenette where his lunch box was. He took out his guns, walked out into the hall and began shooting.
The first people shot were managers or executives involved in Thornton’s firing,” Manchester police Lt Christopher Davis said today.
Thornton left the office area and went into a large section of the warehouse where more victims were found. He chased one or more of them outside into a parking lot, shot a locked glass door to get back into the building and continued shooting.
One man who was fatally shot tried to evade Thornton on a forklift, which crashed into an electrical conduit and started a small fire
Thornton also passed by at least two people and did not shoot them, including one woman in a wheelchair, Davis said.
Finally, Thornton called his mother to say goodbye, said his uncle Wilbert Holliday.
“I shot the racists that was bothering me,” he told his mother.
Police found Thornton dead in an office.
Davis revealed today that the company had hired a private investigator to follow Thornton outside of work for a few weeks after becoming suspicious that he was stealing. The amount of beer Thornton took has not been verified.
The vice president of the company, Steve Hollander, was among those shot. He had been in the disciplinary meeting. Hollander was shot twice but survived.
The dead victims were named as Bryan Cirigliano, 51, of Newington, president of Teamsters 1035 and had been Thornton’s representative at the hearing; Louis Felder, operations director with the company; Doug Scruton, 56; Bill Ackerman, 51; Francis Fazio Jr, 57; Edwin Kennison, 49; Craig Pepin, 60; and Victor James, 60.
Jerome Rosenstein, 77, was wounded and is in a serious condition at Hartford Hospital.
Thornton’s girlfriend of eight years, Kristi Hannah, 26, said he had told her months ago that he was racially harassed, and he showed her photos he took with his cell phone. One was a drawing on a bathroom wall of a stick figure with a noose around the neck and a racial slur.
Another scrawl said the writer hated black people and had Thornton’s name on it, she said.
Brett Hollander, who also works at Hartford Distributors, has denied any charges of racism.
“I can assure you there has never been any racial discrimination at our company,” he said.
Hannah said Thornton gave her a long hug and kiss goodbye on the morning of the shooting. He looked dazed and confused, so she asked him whether something was wrong, but he said no.
“I think he did it because of the racial stuff,” she said, adding that Thornton “said he was very hurt.”
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]