MANCHESTER, Conn. — There is no evidence to support a man’s claim that he was a victim of racism before he fatally shot eight co-workers at a beer distribution company last year, police said Thursday.
Omar Thornton, who was black, “did not seem to understand the concept of seniority” and therefore believed he was subjected to racism at Hartford Distributors, Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy said. The company’s most senior drivers pick the best routes, leaving the remainder for less senior workers like Thornton, Montminy said.
Thornton shot 10 people, eight of them fatally, within three minutes Aug. 3 before killing himself in what Montminy said was the worst mass shooting ever in Connecticut.
Immediately before the shootings, Thornton was fired for stealing beer. Afterward, he called 911 and told an operator: “This place is a racist place. They’re treating me bad over here. And treat all other black employees bad over here, too. So I took it to my own hands and handled the problem. I wish I could have got more of the people.”
Montminy said investigators found no evidence of racism, but were told that a drawing of President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck was seen on a bathroom wall months before the shootings and was quickly removed by the company.
The union said last year that 14 of 69 dock workers, or 20 percent, were racial minorities — four black, nine Hispanic, one Asian.
The police report said Thornton had made racist comments himself. A co-worker told authorities that Thornton asked him if he knew any good white men and said, “You got to kill them before they go bad.”
Police say the shootings appeared random. Thornton, 34, shot several workers with whom he had disputes and others with whom he did not have much contact, Montminy said.
Thornton did not shoot two disabled workers, one who was in a wheelchair and the other who is mentally disabled, “when clearly he had the opportunity to shoot them,” the police chief said.
The report describes how Thornton moved quickly through the office and warehouse, shooting co-workers at close range. The first 911 call police received was from Steve Hollander, vice president of Hartford Distributors, who was injured in the shootings.
Surveillance video shows Thornton holding a gun and his lunchbox.
“He had the gun in one hand, the lunch pail in the other,” Montminy said. “People started to flee the building from every direction.”
As soon as police arrived, Thornton barricaded himself in an office and made two calls, one to his mother and the other to 911. He then fatally shot himself.
Officials did not include crime scene photos showing the victims, but parts of the report were gruesome. For example, it described one victim who was shot in the head and whose body was badly burned by a fire started by a forklift that was still running after its driver was shot.
Police said they found victims scattered throughout the property, including the driveway, a loading dock and at least three men who were shot and found on the floor.
The report said Thornton arrived at work the day of the shooting wearing a “Rocky” T-shirt, from the Sylvester Stallone movies, and carried a lunch box that later was found to have contained two Ruger 9 mm handguns, two extra magazines and two extra boxes of 9 mm ammunition.
Officials of Manchester, 10 miles east of Hartford, met Wednesday with families of the victims, Montminy said.
The police report describes Thornton as a hard worker who was likable but had learning disabilities. On one occasion at a previous job, he refused an order and walked off the job. He also was fired from a job for stealing $250 given to him to refuel a truck, police said.
He was hired at Hartford Distributors two years to the day before the shootings and told a fellow worker he was unhappy working in the warehouse because he believed he had been hired as a driver.
Thornton’s friends and loved ones have said he had long complained about racial injustice. His girlfriend said he showed her cell phone photos of racist drawings on a bathroom wall, but Montminy said police did not find the images on the cell phone.