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Report: alleged Hartford Distributors shooter claimed racial harassment

A driver called into a disciplinary meeting at Hartford Distributors in Manchester, Ct., opened fire on employees at the busiest time of the day Tuesday, police say.

By Staff writer / August 3, 2010

Workers from Hartford Distributors and their families gather at Manchester High School in Manchester, Ct., Tuesday. Authorities say several people have been shot at the beer distribution company.

Jessica Hill/AP

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Nine people are dead in a workplace shooting in a Manchester, Ct., beer-distribution warehouse, and an unknown number are wounded.

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On Tuesday morning, Omar Thornton, a driver for Hartford Distributors, went on a shooting rampage during a morning shift change, and then killed himself, police say.

Mr. Thornton, who had worked for the company for a couple of years, had been called in for a disciplinary hearing, according to reports, and was on his way there this morning. It was unclear whether the meeting had taken place before he started shooting.

According to Brett Hollander, the director of marketing at the company, between 50 and 70 people were in the warehouse when Thornton opened fire around 7 a.m. A fire in the warehouse – which has been put out – added to the chaos. Thornton eventually turned his semiautomatic rifle on himself as police approached.

Mr. Hollander, whose family owns the company, says his cousin, who was shot in the face and arm, was among the wounded. Hollander thinks his cousin will 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," Hollander told the Associated Press.

It’s still unclear why Thornton was being disciplined, though a source told the Hartford Courant that he had been suspected of stealing from the company. Joanne Hannah, a former neighbor of Thornton whose daughter had dated him, also told the Courant that Thornton, who is black, had complained about racial harassment at work and that his superiors had refused to address his complaint.

The shooting is the deadliest in the US since 13 people were shot and killed at Fort Hood, Texas, last November.

The shooting “was a senseless act of violence that has left us all shaken and reminds us just how precious and fragile life truly is,” said Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell in a statement of condolence to the victims' families.

• Wire material was used in this report.

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