Disgruntled Beer Worker Goes On Shooting Spree

Shooter Kills 9, Including Himself, After Disciplinary Hearing

MANCHESTER, Conn. (CBS 2/ 1010 WINS/AP)  — Police said a driver at a beer warehouse was being escorted from the property after a disciplinary hearing Tuesday morning when he started shooting, killing eight people and wounding two before killing himself.

The gunfire erupted inside Hartford Distributors about 7 a.m., police said.

Photo Gallery: 9 Dead In Connecticut Shooting Spree

The driver, Omar Thornton, had worked at the distributor for a couple of years but had been called in for a hearing, said John Hollis of the Connecticut Teamsters, who was with company officials at the scene of the shooting. A union official said Thornton had been caught on videotape stealing beer.

Two victims were taken to Hartford Hospital, spokeswoman Michaela Donnelly said. One was in critical condition, and one was in fair condition. Families of workers gathered at the town high school to wait for information and comfort each other.

The shooter’s family said Thornton called to speak with his mother before taking his own life.

“He said I killed the five racists that was there,” Will Holliday –Thornton’s uncle — told reporters including CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.  Holliday said Thornton anticipated police would arrive at the scene shortly and said “I’m gonna take care of myself.”

About 50 to 70 people were in the warehouse during a shift change when the gunman opened fire, said Brett Hollander, whose family owns Hartford Distributors. Adding to the chaos was a fire at the warehouse, about 10 miles east of Hartford, that was put out. Police did not know whether the fire was related to the shootings.

Among the victims was Hollander’s cousin, a vice president at the company who was shot in the arm and the face. Hollander said he thought his cousin would recover.

Two union reps were among the dead. Teamsters local president Bryan Cirigliano lived in Newington. His grieving daughter and wife told CBS 2’s Lou Young on Tuesday night they cannot begin to express their loss, certainly not in public.

And at the Windsor home of shop steward Victor James, neighbors who called him “the Bud man” looked at his empty place in disbelief. James has two grown daughters and four grandchildren.

“None of us think we’re going walk out the door and die, not at our jobs. It’s just … no.” neighbor Frank Hunt said.

“He told me last week he would be officially retired in August, but all done in April and he had 31 years over there,” neighbor Harvey Leblanc added.

In South Windsor, another old timer, Craig Pepin, was mourned by his family. He leaves a wife and four grown kids. His brother said it’s easy to describe him.

“Just loving, putting everyone else first, joyful. He loved life,” Ron Pepin said.

For too many it is beyond belief, especially for the family of the killer. They remember his complaints about racism and know that nothing can excuse what happened in Manchester on Tuesday.

“There are no winners. Nine families are grieving tonight. So nobody wins, no matter what the situation is. Racism, discrimination whatever. They’re hurting, we’re hurting. Nobody wins,” Holliday said.

Holliday said he knew his nephew had complained about mistreatment at work, but had no idea he had been pushed to the point of violence.

Aiello reports that family members heard Thornton claim he had been subjected to the “n” word at work and that someone left a noose where he would find it.

The family said Thornton was particularly sensitive to racism — both overt and perceived. He dated a number of white women, including Jessica Brocuglia, who described him as a kind-hearted man.

“He’s a big guy but a big bear,” Brocuglia told CBS 2.

“He’s never put his hands on me, ever.  I actually punched him, and he never ever once raised his hand to me, Brocuglia said. “It’s just sad to hear this … something snapped inside his head.”

In a statement, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered condolences to the victims’ families and co-workers.

“We are all left asking the same questions: How could someone do this? Why did they do this?” she said.

Other members of the gunman’s family also expressed sorrow for Tuesday’s shootings.

“I’m very disturbed and I’m very very sorry about the families who are also grieving today for something I truly believe could have been avoided,” Thornton’s cousin Darlene Hayles said.

Hayles also told 1010 WINS reporter Al Jones that her cousin was frustrated that his complaints were not taken seriously.

“They saw the signs and saw what was going on and they ignored it,” Hayles said. “Now all these families are grieving.”

The rampage was the nation’s deadliest since 13 people were fatally shot at Fort Hood, Texas, last November. A military psychiatrist is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in that case.

It was the worst workplace shooting in Connecticut since 1998, when a state lottery worker gunned down four supervisors before committing suicide.

(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Kingsley

    American whites should take responsibility for African Americans behavior, for centuries of slavery, decades of segregation and lynching, the memories are so fresh. Listening to their stories any sane human being will not be able to withhold tears. Instead of toning down this racial attitude, for the young generations to grow up without anger. If whites take responsibility, the history being told to younger generations of African Americans the anger will be minimum. Seeing what the white has done to them and continue to do, as human this will always trigger violence in any incident. I was born in Africa and came to Europe to study, my first years was hell, in Africa I thought we were human but in the white mans country, everything is distorted. I do not think white leaders do not understand Al Qaida, distortion of people’s culture in order to promote your culture in their backyard is the cause of this violence. Africans are the most civilized people on this planet, being in Europe and Asia, Americans propaganda machines make people think America is democratic, this is for people who cannot think for themselves. Democracy in America is for those who do not challenge white’s dominance like target immigrants, Asians, Arabs, Africans, Latinos and others. African Americans that has the right to challenge white authority are silenced by oppression, racial profiling, manipulation of the truth, triggering conflicts with other monorities.

  • JasonS

    “I killed five racists”

    This was obviously a race hate killing, the man clearly intended to target people of a particular race and the killing had a racial motive. But let’s see if the liberal media dare report it as such. If a white man had burst into a business with all guns blazing and killed a bunch of black people and mentioned race as his motive, this would be reported as the worst race killing in years and would be all over the news for weeks.

  • JasonS

    Another outstanding union man with a “job for life” mentality snaps after having his bubble burst.

  • KMarshall

    Sounds so unfortunate, but I feel there’s more to the story. Definitely doesn’t justify killing 9 people, but dude probably just snapped…

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