MANCHESTER, Conn. (CBS 2/ 1010 WINS/AP) — Omar Thornton sat calmly in a meeting with union representatives and his supervisors as they showed a video of him stealing beer from the distributor where he worked.
Busted, he didn’t put up a fight, company officials said. He quietly signed a letter of resignation and was headed for the door when he pulled out a gun and started firing — “cold as ice,” as one survivor described it.
“We think he may have carried them in a lunchbox and carried them into a kitchen area,” Manchester Police Lt. Christopher Davis told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
The warehouse driver left the guns in the kitchen and then went to the hearing where he was given the choice to quit or be fired.
“After the conclusion of the meeting he went back into the kitchen area. He asked for a drink of water and we believe at that point he got them … the lunchbox with the guns,” Lt. Davis said.
And police said Thornton stepped out into the hallway and immediately shot two managers involved in his dismissal. Once the gunshots rang out, so did chaos. Some called 911:
Caller: “I’m bleeding all over the place.”
911 dispatcher: “OK, how many people got shot?”
Caller: “I don’t know.”
Then there was this exchange with another worker:
911 dispatcher: “Are you hiding?”
911 dispatcher: “Stay down where you are. And hold on a second.”
Caller: “Oh my God.”
Another dispatcher took this chilling call:
911 dispatcher: “Are you in the back hiding? Can you lock the door?”
Caller: “I don’t want to get up. Do you have him?”
911 dispatcher: “They do not have him yet.”
Caller: “I don’t want to get up.”
Workers hid anywhere they could as Thornton methodically murdered eight people.
“From the hallway he went through an office complex and then went into a large warehouse area. There was some additional victims there,” Lt. Davis said.
Police said the beer delivery driver spared some lives as he walked past but seemed intent on killing others.
“He then chased one or more individuals through the building and out to the parking lot,” Lt. Davis said.
Witnesses saw Thornton tearing through the lot.
Steve Hollander told the 911 dispatcher: “I see him running now. He’s running away right now. He’s shooting at somebody else. He’s still shooting.”
911 dispatcher: “He’s outside?”
Hollander: “He’s shooting at a girl.”
As police received more 911 calls, Thornton, 34, went back into the building to continue the carnage before finding an office where he called his mother then turned his weapon on himself.
Police said Thornton did not have a master list of victims nor did he leave behind a suicide note, leaving authorities to wonder if he took the motive for this murderous madness to his grave.
On Tuesday night, Thornton’s family spoke out saying he blamed his actions on racial harassment.
“He said ‘I killed the five racists that was there, that was bothering me,'” Thornton’s uncle Will Holliday told reporters Tuesday.
One of the victims caught up in the bloodbath was 50-year-old Louis Felder of Stamford, a supervisor at Hartford Distributors.
Friends say they are “stunned” and “shocked” that Felder, a member of the Orthodox Jewish community, was among those caught up in the bloodbath, 1010 WINS reporter Steve Sandberg reports.
At least 500 people attended Wednesday’s funeral for Felder at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford. The service took place one day after his death, in accordance with his beliefs as an Orthodox Jew.
Felder had just celebrated his 50th birthday on Sunday. He leaves behind a wife and three teenage children, who after wishing their dad goodbye as he went to work Tuesday were left to write his eulogies, Sandberg reports.
Thornton’s girlfriend — 26-year-old Kristi Hannah says he showed her evidence of racial harassment at work and that’s what drove him to retaliate.
Hannah told the AP he showed her photos he took with his cell phone of a picture drawn on a bathroom wall. It was a stick figure with a noose around his neck and the N-word.
She says, another time, he was in a bathroom and held up his phone. She says she could hear a company official, in conversation with someone else and apparently unaware Thornton was in a stall. She says the officials said they were going to “get rid of” Thornton and used a racial epithet.
The distribution facility remains closed Wednesday as the investigation continues.
Family and friends gathered Wednesday night at St. Margaret Nary Church in South Windsor to remember the victims. Numbed with pain and stunned by sadness, a community came together with hugs, tears, and so many questions.
“Why did this have to happen to these people and to my friend?” said Terri Rizzo, a friend of fallen Craig Pepin.
That was unanswerable among those huddled shoulder to shoulder in a standing room-only service dedicated to the lives snatched away, reports CBS 2’s Hennessey.
“When you see these just ordinary folks, working people, trying to do the best they can, when something like this hits out of the blue, it’s just unthinkable,” said Connecticut House Majority Leader Denise Merrill.
Amidst the massacre, one of the victims, Pepin, was called a hero.
“He saw the man coming in with the guns and told everybody to run out the back door. And I am sure, I am sure that he tried to stop this man from reaching those who were going out that door. And the man shot him in the head and killed him,” Rev. Daniel Sullivan said.
On Wednesday night a spokesman for the family that runs the beer company said they were blindsided by the unexplainable.
“It’s hit them extremely hard as you can imagine and everyone is just sort of in a state of shock and mystified,” said Hollander family spokesman James Battaglio.
They aren’t alone in trying to cope.
“You can’t forget these guys and the goodness that they did,” resident Roger Whitman said.
In the coming days, more loved ones will gather at places like this to say goodbye, while trying to come to grips with the evil that left behind of the worst workplace mass murders this country has ever seen.