In the latest indication of what could have possibly motivated someone to commit this week’s shooting rampage in Milwaukee, a co-worker of the gunman suggested racism could have proven to be the tipping point for Anthony Ferrill. The 51-year-old longtime employee at Molson Coors killed five other workers at the brewery before turning the gun on himself on Wednesday.
The married father of three was being discriminated against at work because he was Black, the co-worker reportedly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The local news outlet said it was protecting the co-worker’s identity out of fear of possible reprisal for divulging such sensitive information.
Ferrill, who was an electrician at Molson Coors for 17 years, also butted heads with at least one of the people he killed, the Journal Sentinel reported that the anonymous source said. It appeared that all of Ferrill’s victims were non-Black.
“The co-worker said Ferrill often watched movies on his phone during the day, which the other man took issue with, and that the two accused each other of going into each others’ offices and stealing tools or tampering with computer equipment,” the Journal Sentinel wrote.
There has been no official confirmation of a motive for Ferrill’s shooting and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett would not comment on whether he thought racism was a factor.
“Right now, there’s an investigation going on, and I think it’s premature to speculate on anything,” he said on Thursday. “I think this is the time to be there to grieve and to support the families.”
One of those social media posts came from an account credited to a Milwaukee businessman who devoted multiple posts on his Facebook page to explain “the reason why our Brother snapped at Miller Coors!”
“The shooter at Millers Coors is reported to suffer racial discrimination and harassment from white co-workers. He recently filed a civil lawsuit against Miller Coors’s racist work environment. The racist white co-workers had hung a hangman noose on his locker. He was rehired after the lawsuit five years ago. The white racist male harassment continue when he returned to work at Miller Coors,” Tony Muhammad wrote in one post on Wednesday night just hours after the shooting took place.
“The racist white co-workers this time humiliated the 51-year-old African American male by pasting spade cards on his work locker and making his workday unbearable with white male racist antics,” Muhammad continued. “The Brother evidently was forced over the edge of sanity to make a violent and act to end Miller Coors workforce racist harassment. Perhaps with this most recent reported incident of workforce white male racism against African American Miller Coors in the City of Milwaukee will make fair and equal employment for all a matter of private and public policy… Miller Coors has a long history of tolerating its white brewery worker racist behavior and acts against Black brewery workers.”
Muhammad wrote in a separate post that the shooting was “personal” for him because he has “three sons that experience white racism at Molson Coors.”
When reached via Facebook messenger, Muhammad told NewsOne that several Black workers were part of a text message group while the shooting was taking place. The content of those reported texts was not immediately clear.
Molson Coors has faced accusations of racism and racial discrimination in the past.
A racial discrimination lawsuit against Miller Brewing Company and its parent, MillerCoors LLC was dismissed in 2013 after Syed Alam, a software developer, sued. A previous employment discrimination lawsuit filed by Alam against Miller was settled in 2006, which is apparently why the later racial discrimination case was tossed, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Those lawsuits came after three former employees of Miller Brewing Co. sued in 1994 for claims of employees being “subjected to racist name-calling and harassment” at a plant in New York, the Associated Press reported. At the time, it was “the third legal action against the Milwaukee-based brewer by black employees at the Fulton plant who say they faced discrimination.”
That lawsuit said “black employees were subjected to a variety of forms of racial harassment, including hearing racial slurs directed at them over a paging system and being exposed to a variety of racial epithets in plant graffiti” and that “the company took too long to start using a graffiti-resistant paint and to limit access to the plant’s public address system to prevent harassment.”
Molson Coors is the parent company for a number of beers including Miller Lite, Coors Lite and Molson Canadian.
The reports of the brewery gunman being the victim of workplace racism were unconfirmed. With that said, Milwaukee County in April declared racism a public health crisis in the city that the Brookings Institution in 2018 found to be the most segregated in America.