A black warehouse driver who had complained of racial harassment at work went on a shooting rampage yesterday, killing eight people before apparently killing himself. The shooting occurred at a beer distributorship in Manchester, Connecticut, about 100 miles north east of New York City.
At least two people were also wounded, one critically, government officials confirmed.
The gunman was identified as Omar Thornton. He had worked at the distributorship for a couple of years and had been called in for a disciplinary hearing, where he is believed to have been asked to resign.
A police sharpshooter had already been given approval to fire on Thornton when he shot himself, according to local police sources.
After shooting his co-workers, Thornton telephoned his grandmother, according to his girlfriend's mother.
"He wanted to say goodbye and he loved everybody," said Joanne Hannah, whose daughter Kristi had dated Thornton for eight years.
Thornton had complained to his superiors about harassment, Joanne Hannah said. She also said a picture of a noose and a racial epithet had been hung on a bathroom wall at the beer distributorship. She claimed her daughter told her that Thornton's supervisors had not responded to his complaints.
James Battaglio, a spokesman for the families who own the distributorship, said he had no immediate information about the allegations of racial harassment.
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 (16 kilometers) 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 be OK.
"There was a guy that was supposed to, was asked to resign, to come in to resign and chose not to and shot my cousin and my co-workers," Brett Hollander told the AP.
Among the dead was Bryan Cirigliano, 51, president of Teamsters 1035, according to the union secretary.
A few dozen relatives and friends of the victims gathered a few miles away at Manchester High School. Outside, people talked, hugged and cried. Others talked on cell phones.
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.
Associated Press writers Susan Haigh and Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; John Christoffersen in New Haven, Connecticut.; Lynne Tuohy in Concord, New Hampshire; and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.