A disgruntled employee at a US beer and wine wholesaler gunned down eight coworkers on Tuesday after reportedly being called in by bosses for disciplinary action, and then turned the gun on himself.
Police rushed to Hartford Distributors in Manchester, Connecticut, shortly after 7:30am, too late to prevent the slaughter.
The gunman opened fire during a shift change, when up to 40 people were inside. The killer’s own body was found about 40 minutes later.
In addition to killing eight, he wounded at least two people, who police said were “expected to survive.”
“There were nine individuals, including the suspect, who were killed during the shooting,” a police statement said. “We are presently in the process of trying to identify the victims and make notifications to family members.”
The local Hartford Courant daily said the shooter was 34-year-old warehouse driver Omar Thornton, and that he had been called in for a hearing just before the shooting rampage began.
“The union was bringing him in to meet with the company to remedy the problem,” John Hollis, a Teamsters union official, was quoted as saying. “He started shooting.”
Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy told the newspaper that during the meeting with management and union representatives, Thornton was offered the choice to resign or be fired.
“He was being escorted from the building when the shots rang out,” Montminy said.
Officials declined to specify the nature of the problem that was the reason for the meeting.
Unconfirmed reports from family members suggested Thornton, who is black, had complained about being racially harassed at work and that his superiors had done nothing about it.
“Something snapped inside his head,” his ex-girlfriend told a local CBS television affiliate. “He’s never been violent that I know of,” she said. “I don’t know what happened inside of him.”
The Hartford Courant quoted sources saying that Thornton had used a .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle, and that two of the victims were shot outside and the rest inside, where he was later found.
“Our prayers go out to the employees and families of the victims. In the wake of this tragedy we are all left asking the same questions. How could someone do this? Why did they do this?” Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell said.
“It was a senseless act of violence that has left us all shaken and reminds us just how precious and fragile life truly is,” Rell said.
The victims identified so far ranged in age from 49 to 60.
Among the wounded was reportedly Steven Hollander, whose family owns Hartford Distributors, the biggest Budweiser distributor in Connecticut, with some 400 employees.
“Everyone is devastated by this tragic and senseless act,” Jim Bataglio, a spokesman for the Hollander family, was quoted as saying in the Hartford Courant.
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