0

Police: Gunman out for managers

Photo by Jessica Hill

Photo by Jessica Hill

MANCHESTER, Conn. -- The warehouse driver who fatally shot eight co-workers and himself at a beer distributorship apparently targeted managers who had hired a private detective to tail him and forced him to resign because he stole beer from work, police said Wednesday.

Omar Thornton's girlfriend, meanwhile, told The Associated Press that he had complained of racial harassment and had shared evidence of it 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 inside his lunch box Tuesday 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.

He then asked for a drink of water and went to a kitchenette where his lunch box was, Manchester police Lt. Christopher Davis said Wednesday. He went to the kitchen, took out his guns, walked out into the hall and began shooting immediately, Davis said. All the weapons were registered, he said.

The first people shot were managers or executives involved in Thornton's firing, Davis said. It's not clear whether every victim was targeted or whether some were shot randomly, Davis said.

Thornton left the office area and went into a large section of the warehouse where more victims were found, Davis said. 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, Davis said.

Thornton also passed by at least two people and did not shoot them, Davis said, including one woman in a wheelchair. In all, Thornton killed eight people and wounded two others.

Finally, Thornton called his mother to say goodbye, said his uncle Wilbert Holliday. Thornton, who was black, had complained of racial harassment for months to family and friends and indicated he did target people -- but because they had harassed him.

''I shot the racists that was bothering me,'' he told his mother.

Police found Thornton dead in an office. Davis revealed Wednesday 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 wasn't clear.

Holliday said his nephew told his family that he was the only black employee at the company. None of the victims were black, Davis said.

Friends and family of those who died said they couldn't imagine their loved ones doing what Thornton said, and the company and union said Thornton never reported any harassment.