The Hartford Distributors shooting was a
mass shooting that occurred on August 3, 2010, in Manchester,
Connecticut, United States. The location of the crime was a warehouse
owned by Hartford Distributors, a beer distribution company. The
gunman, former employee Omar Thornton, shot and killed eight people
before turning a gun on himself.
Thornton, a 34-year-old black man, was called into
his place of employment for disciplinary purposes. Thornton had been
recorded on surveillance video in the Hartford Distributors warehouse
stealing beer on a previous occasion. Hartford Distributors is a
wholesale distributor of Budweiser beer products and wine. Given the
options of being fired or resigning, Thornton signed the resignation
papers and was being escorted out of the building. Instead of leaving,
he took two Ruger SR9s from his lunchbox and opened fire.
At the time Thornton started shooting, there were
around 40 employees in the building. In just a few minutes, Thornton
murdered eight coworkers, and seriously injured two others.
Many employees made calls to 911, with some callers
identifying Thornton. Police arrived on the scene just three minutes
after the first 911 call. Police entered the building 10 minutes after
the first 911 call. Thornton hid in a locked office. As more police
entered the building, Thornton called his mother and explained to her
what he had done. He told her he planned on turning the gun on himself.
As police closed in, Thornton called 911, saying his motive for the
massacre was racism he had experienced in the workplace. He told the
911 operator that he wished he had killed more people. Soon after
hanging up on 911, he killed himself with a shot to the head.
Family members of Thornton have stated that he had
complained to them that he was being racially discriminated against at
his job. Thornton's girlfriend claimed that he had seen a picture of a
noose and a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall. Thornton was
African American in a facility that had mostly white employees.
Company and union officials as well as workers at the facility have
denied the murderer's charges of racism.
The union notes that he never filed a complaint
with the union or any government agency. Forensic psychiatrist Keith
Ablow stated, "I’ve evaluated plenty of murderers during my career...
and I can tell you that people don’t commit atrocities because of name-calling."
A police probe did not find proof of racism at Hartford Distributors,
with other minority workers at Hartford Distributors interviewed by
the police disagreeing with Thornton's allegation that the company was
"a racist place".
The massacre is the deadliest workplace shooting in
Connecticut history. Connecticut suffered a similar workplace shooting
at the Lottery Headquarters in Newington on March 6, 1998, which left
five dead including the shooter.
Christy Quail and Sean Quail were arrested for
receiving the property alleged to have been stolen by Thornton. Sean
Quail was arrested on August 17 in an incident where he sprayed bug-repellent
at reporters covering the case. Quail was charged with three counts of
first-degree reckless endangerment, three counts of third-degree
assault, carrying a dangerous instrument, and breach of peace.
Troubles Preceded Connecticut Workplace Killing
By ay Rivera and Liz Robbins
August 3, 2010
It was the busiest time of the day at Hartford
Distributors, the morning shift change. And among the dozens of
warehouse workers, sales representatives and executives inside the
sprawling building in Manchester, Conn., was the company’s newest
truck driver, about to lose his job.
The driver, Omar S. Thornton, 34, came in at 7 a.m.
on Tuesday for a disciplinary hearing. Mr. Thornton had been with the
company for two years, still new in a family-run workplace where
others had been on the payroll for decades. He had reason to be
worried: his bosses said they had video showing him stealing beer from
the company. He might also have had cause to be angry: he had
complained to his girlfriend of being racially harassed at work, the
woman’s mother said, and lamented that his grievances had gone
His bosses gave him a stark choice: resign or be
fired. Mr. Thornton, according to the authorities, instead drew a
handgun, opened fire and moved through the warehouse as his toll
mounted. He shot fellow drivers, a company executive and a local union
president, the authorities said.
When he was done, eight people lay fatally shot,
two more were wounded, and Mr. Thornton, following the blueprint of so
many other mass shootings, had killed himself, the authorities said.
“He came in to meet with the company, and after
that all hell broke loose,” said John Hollis, a legislative affairs
representative for the Connecticut Teamsters. “He pulled the gun and
ran through the warehouse.”
The rampage, the latest in a series of American
workplace tragedies, lasted just minutes and set off a response from
as many as a half-dozen police agencies. The authorities cordoned off
the warehouse and entered it to discover one victim after another,
ultimately finding Mr. Thornton in an office area, said Chief Marc
Montminy of the Manchester Police Department.
“He was alive when police responded,” Chief
Montminy said. “Police began clearing the building. He was funneled
into an office area and took his own life.”
The chief said it was unclear whether Mr. Thornton
had fired more than one gun in the attack. One law enforcement
official said Mr. Thornton used a 9-millimeter Ruger in the attack.
Another official, Lt. Christopher Davis of the Manchester police, said
numerous guns were registered to Mr. Thornton, a tall, heavyset man
with significant debts, a career as a truck driver for a number of
companies in the state and a girlfriend who could not make sense of
The identities of some of the dead and wounded
trickled out on Tuesday, as the authorities sought to notify family
members. Among those killed was Bryan Cirigliano, 51, president of
Teamsters Local 1035, which represents drivers at Hartford
Distributors. Mr. Cirigliano had been present for the disciplinary
hearing, a union official said.
Another victim, Steve Hollander, an executive with
the company and the grandson of the company’s founder, was shot, but
he was treated at Hartford Hospital and released. In addition, one
victim was still at Hartford Hospital in critical condition, a
“We don’t know if he walked around randomly
shooting,” Chief Montminy said at a news conference, “but we do know
we found victims throughout the building.”
Joanne Hannah said that her daughter Kristi had
been dating Mr. Thornton for parts of the last eight years and that Mr.
Thornton, who was black, had been having problems with co-workers.
“Things were being put on the bathroom walls,” including a “hangman
noose,” Ms. Hannah said.
Union officials said Mr. Thornton never registered
a complaint. “He never filed anything with the union,” said
Christopher Roos, an official with Teamsters Local 1035. “As far as I
know, there was never a state claim or a federal claim. Mr. Thornton
was brought into the office about a disciplinary issue, and that was
Details about the disciplinary proceeding were
sketchy, including how much beer Mr. Thornton was accused of stealing.
Mr. Thornton, who graduated from East Hartford High School in 1996,
had no criminal history outside of driving infractions, records
“He was a quiet person, not a mean bone in his body,”
said Clayton Mack, 53, who shared a house with Mr. Thornton and Kristi
Hannah for several years in Enfield, north of Hartford.
It was the nation’s deadliest rampage since 13
people were gunned down at Fort Hood, Tex., last November. Maj. Nidal
Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has been charged in that case.
The attack on Tuesday was Connecticut’s deadliest
shooting since a state lottery worker fatally shot four supervisors in
1998 before committing suicide.
In a statement, Gov. M. Jodi Rell called the latest
shootings a “senseless act of violence.”
“In the wake of this tragedy,” Ms. Rell said, “we
are all left asking the same questions: How could someone do this? Why
did they do this?”
The authorities said they would investigate the
possibility that Mr. Thornton had in fact been harassed at the
workplace over his race.
Joanne Hannah, the mother of Mr. Thornton’s
girlfriend, said he had shown her daughter cellphone pictures of the
walls of the bathroom at the warehouse, where slurs had been written
and a stick figure hanging from a noose had been drawn.
Ms. Hannah also said Mr. Thornton had once called
her daughter from a bathroom at the warehouse and held the phone up so
she could hear his supervisor and another employee talking
disparagingly about blacks.
Ms. Hannah said that after Mr. Thornton shot his
victims, he called his mother and said he “wanted to say goodbye, to
tell everyone he loved them and that he had shot five people.”
Mr. Thornton’s cousin Annette Levine described his
final phone call to his mother as more incendiary, saying he had told
her that he had shot “the five racists.”
“Those were his last words to her,” Ms. Levine said.
“He loved her, and they pushed him over the edge.”
The disciplinary hearing appears to have lasted
about a half-hour and to have involved Mr. Thornton, a union
representative and one or more management officials, including Steve
Mr. Hollander told The Associated Press that Mr.
Thornton “didn’t argue. He didn’t admit or deny anything. He just
agreed to resign.”
One person familiar with details of the hearing
said that Mr. Thornton then went to get a glass of water. His back to
Mr. Hollander, he reached into what appeared to be a lunch bag, turned
and opened fire, the person said.
Mr. Hollander said two people standing near him
were shot in the head and killed, but he was only grazed in the jaw
and the arm. “By just the grace of God, I don’t know how he missed
me,” he said.
After the initial police response, buses took the
employees from the warehouse to Manchester High School, where union
representatives and Ross Hollander, the president of Hartford
Distributors, were comforting families of the victims, Mr. Hollis, the
Teamsters official, said.
Hartford Distributors, one of the state’s largest
wholesalers of beer and wine, was founded in 1944 and has been owned
and operated by the Hollander family since the 1960s. The company
moved from East Hartford to Manchester 16 years ago.
Bill Bartlett, who retired from the company, was at
the high school comforting his former colleagues on Tuesday. “I lost a
lot of friends today,” he said.
The victims included Louis Felder, 50, a father of
three from Stamford, Conn., who worked at the company as director of
operations. Among the others identified were Victor James and Craig
Peppin, who, like many at Hartford Distributors, had worked there for
Mr. James, who was 60 and lived in Windsor, Conn.,
had driven a Budweiser truck for 30 years and was looking forward to
retiring, his mother, Gloria Wilson, 86, said. He had two daughters
and four grandchildren.
“I know a lot of people say that about their
families, but this fellow loved children, and he took such good care
of his grandchildren,” Mrs. Wilson said.
Mr. Peppin, 60, had worked at the company for more
than 30 years, said his brother, Ron Peppin. Mr. Peppin, 49, said he
heard about the shootings on the radio and knew right away that it was
the time when Craig, who lived in South Windsor, would have been at
Transcript of Omar Thornton's 911 Call
August 5, 2010
Dispatcher: State Police.
Thornton: Is this 911?
Dispatcher: Yeah, can I help you?
Thornton: This is Omar Thornton, the, uh, the
shooter over in Manchester.
Dispatcher: Yes, where are you, sir?
Thornton: I'm in the building. Uh, you probably
want to know the reason why I shot this place up. This place here is a
Dispatcher: Yup, I understand that
Thornton: They treat me bad over here, and they
treat all the other black employees bad over here too, so I just take
it into my own hands and I handled the problem — I wish I coulda got
more of the people.
Dispatcher: Yeah. Are you armed, sir? Do you have a
weapon with you?
Thornton: Oh yeah, I'm armed.
Dispatcher: How many guns do you have with you?
Thornton: I got one now, there's one out, one out
in the uh, the uh, factory there.
Dispatcher: Yup. OK, sir.
Thornton: I'm not gonna kill nobody else, though.
Dispatcher: Yeah, we're gonna have to have you
surrender yourself somehow here, not make the situation any worse, you
know what I mean?
Thornton: These cops are gonna kill me.
Dispatcher: No they're not. We're just gonna have
to get you to relax
Thornton: I'm relaxed, just calm down.
Dispatcher: … to have you, you know, turn yourself
Thornton: We're just talking, you're gonna play
something on the news, you know I'm gonna be popular, right
[inaudible] the right thing. SWAT team just rolled by in army gear.
You don't know where I'm at, but, I don't know, maybe you can trace it
from this phone call. But, yeah, these people here are crazy, they
treat me bad from the start here, racist company. They treat me bad,
I'm the only black driver they got here. They treat me bad over here,
they treat me bad all the time.
Dispatcher: This is a horrible situation, I
Thornton: You don't need to calm me down, I'm
already calmed down. I'm not gonna kill nobody else — I just want to
tell my story so that you can play it back.
Dispatcher: You're gonna help me get you out of the
Thornton: All right, I'm a, I get — don't worry
about that, I got that taken care of, I don't need anybody to talk me
into getting me out. …
Dispatcher: Where in the building are you, Omar?
Thornton: I'm not gonna tell you that. Where they
find me, that's when everything will be over.
Dispatcher: Yeah, just, you know, where are you
located, are you up in the offices?
Thornton: Where they fired me, everything be all
right. … Manchester itself is a racist place.
Dispatcher: Yeah, now, um, what time did you get
Thornton: Um, It was about 7 o'clock
Dispatcher: Yeah. This morning?
Thornton: Yeah, about 7 a.m., yeah, they told me to
come early today.
Dispatcher: What type of weapon do you have?
Thornton: I got a Ruger SR9, 15 shot.
Dispatcher: A Ruger? SR9?
Thornton: Automatic, yeah
Dispatcher: Is it a rifle?
Thornton: No, no, it's a pistol. I like pistols
too, they are my favorites.
Dispatcher: Now, uh, you're gonna make the troopers
and the people come in and catch ya? You're not gonna surrender
Thornton: Well — I guess, I guess uh, maybe I'll
surrender … nah. They come and get me, have them come get me.
Dispatcher: Yeah, we wouldn't want to do it like
that, Omar. You know, it's already been a bad enough scene here this
morning, we want you to relax.
Thornton: I'm relaxed though, I'm done.
Dispatcher: Yeah, we don't want any more, any more,
uh, you know, people to lose their life, here.
Thornton: I'm not gonna kill nobody else.
Thornton: I'm not coming out, I'm not coming out,
they gonna have to find me. Probably use some dogs or whatever, I
don't know what you're gonna do. Anyway.
Dispatcher: How much ammunition you have with you?
Thornton: I got uh, I shot, uh oh .
Dispatcher: What was that?
Thornton: It's all right. I guess it's got me … I
have to take care of business. Tell my people I love them, and I gotta
Dispatcher: Omar. I really want you to help me stop
this situation. OK?
Dispatcher: If you work with me we'll get this to
stop, OK? Omar? Omar? Omar? OK … [to others] Still alive...
Omar S. Thornton