9 killed in Conn. shooting

Photo by Jim Michaud

Photo by Jim Michaud

MANCHESTER, Conn. -- A warehouse driver about to lose his job after getting caught on video stealing beer from the distributorship where he worked went on a shooting rampage there Tuesday, killing eight people before committing suicide, authorities said.

At least two people were wounded, one critically, Manchester police said. They were expected to survive.

The gunman, a black man identified by a company executive as Omar Thornton, had complained of racial harassment and said he found a picture of a noose and a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall, the mother of his girlfriend said. Her daughter told her that Thornton's supervisors told him they'd talk to his co-workers. But a union official said Thornton had not filed a complaint of racism to the union or any government agency.

Thornton had been caught on videotape stealing beer from Hartford Distributors and was supposed to meet with company officials when the shootings began, Teamsters official Christopher Roos said.

''It's got nothing to do with race,'' Roos said. ''This is a disgruntled employee who shot a bunch of people.''

James Battaglio, a spokesman for the families who own the distributorship, said he had no immediate information about the allegations of racial harassment.

Thornton's girlfriend had been with him the night before the rampage and had no indication he was planning it, said her mother, Joanne Hannah.

On Tuesday morning, about 50 to 70 people were in the warehouse about 10 miles east of Hartford during a shift change when the gunman opened fire around 7 a.m., said Brett Hollander, whose family owns the distributorship. Adding to the chaos was a fire at the warehouse that was put out. Police did not know whether the fire was related to the shootings.

After shooting his co-workers, Thornton called his mother, Hannah said.

''He wanted to say goodbye and he loved everybody,'' Hannah said.

A police sharpshooter had approval to fire on Thornton when he killed himself, an official with knowledge of the scene told the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it.

Hannah said her daughter Kristi had dated Thornton for the past eight years. She said he was 34 years old.

''Everybody's got a breaking point,'' Joanne Hannah said. Kristi Hannah did not return calls for comment.

Hannah described Thornton as an easygoing guy who liked to play sports and video games. She said he had a pistol permit and had planned to teach her daughter how to use a gun.

Thornton didn't file any complaints against the company with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and there's no record of any other complaints against the firm, the agency said Tuesday.

Hollander's cousin, who's a vice president at the company, was shot in the arm and the face. Hollander said he thought his cousin would be OK.