Was Yesterday's Workplace Shooting in Manchester, CT, Race-Related?

Omar Thornton
Omar Thornton

The Hartford Courant has a thorough look at yesterday's shooting rampage that killed eight employees at beer distributing company Hartford Distributors Inc., in Manchester, Connecticut. Omar Thornton, 34, was brought in front of company and union officials to discuss allegations that he'd stolen beer (an act that was allegedly videotaped). Given the choice to be fired or resign, Thornton agreed to resign, then pulled out his gun and started shooting, says Steve Hollander, COO, who was shot and survived.

Among the victims killed, many seemingly randomly, were Bryan Cirigliano and Victor James, fellow drivers and union representatives who reportedly tried to save Thornton's job, as well as Craig Pepin, Doug Scruton, William Ackerman, and Edwin Kennison Jr. Two victims remained unidentified late Tuesday, and another unidentified employee is in critical condition in ICU at Hartford Hospital.

According to the Courant:

After the shootings, Thornton called his mother and told her he had shot some people, that he loved her and his girlfriend, and that he was sorry, said Joanne Hannah of Enfield, whose daughter dated Thornton for the past eight years.

In the aftermath of the incident, questions are emerging as to whether the shooting was race-related. Hannah said that Thornton (who is black) had complained about racial harassment at work, including a racial slur and noose on a bathroom wall, which he is said to have taken photos of. And according to Will Holliday, Thornton's uncle, whom Thornton apparently spoke to after the shootings: "He said, 'I killed the five racists that was there bothering me. He said, 'That's it. The cops are going to come in so I'm going to take care of it myself.'"

Chris Roos, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 1035 in South Windsor, said, "There has never been a racial discrimination complaint made to the union and there has not been one made to any state or federal office that I'm aware of. It's got nothing to do with race. This is a disgruntled employee who shot a bunch of people."

More details will surely emerge, but either way, Thornton, who is believed to have eventually turned the gun on himself, now has the extremely dubious honor of being counted as "the biggest mass murderer in state history."

[via Hartford Courant, CBS]

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