Wednesday, August 4, 2010

9 killed in US warehouse shooting: Official

Nine people are dead after an employee summoned for a disciplinary hearing opened fire at a beer distributor in Manchester, Conn., on Tuesday morning, the police said.

One of the dead was the suspected gunman, said Sgt. Sandy Ficaro of the Manchester Police Department. Investigators had been at the company, Hartford Distributors, throughout the day trying to determine the number of fatalities.

"We do know that there are eight deceased and the suspect as well," Sergeant Ficara said. "That is the final count."

Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police, which is conducting the investigation with the Manchester Police, said the suspect went on a rampage in the warehouse, then "probably" turned the gun on himself. "We're still piecing a lot of it together now," he said earlier.

Sergeant Ficara said, "It's been a crazy scene out there."

He identified the suspect as Omar Thornton, who is 34.

John Hollis, a legislative affairs representative for the Connecticut Teamsters, said Mr. Thornton had been called in for a disciplinary hearing that could have resulted in his being terminated. Mr. Hollis called the suspect "a bottom guy" because he was the last man hired, and said he brought a union representative from Local 1035 for the hearing.

The death toll increased throughout the chaotic morning. At first, officials confirmed three dead. The total is believed to have increased as investigators searched the family-owned warehouse about 10 miles east of Hartford. Three of the injured, all with multiple gunshot wounds, had been transported to Hartford Hospital, and one victim died later in the morning, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman, Rebecca Stewart, said one patient at the hospital remained in critical condition and another was in fair condition.

Mr. Hollis said Mr. Thornton was a driver for the company, the last to be hired within the previous three years. Public records show that Mr. Thornton, 34, graduated from East Hartford High School in 1996.

Mr. Hollis said Mr. Thornton had run through the warehouse at the busiest time of the morning, right before 7:30 a.m. At that point, more than 100 drivers, sales people and executives would have been in the building during a shift change.

"He came in to meet with the company and after that, all hell broke loose," Mr. Hollis said. "He pulled the gun and ran through the warehouse."

Mr. Hollis said the State Police told him they confronted the suspected gunman and ordered him to drop the gun. The suspect most likely shot himself, Lieutenant Vance said, adding, "There was no police discharge of weapons."

Lt. Joe San Antonio, a spokesman for the Manchester police, said that when officers responded to an emergency call at 7:30, they searched the building and found the suspect shot.

Buses transported employees from the warehouse to Manchester High School, where union representatives and Ross Hollander, the owner of Hartford Distributors, were comforting families of the victims, Mr. Hollis said.

In a statement, Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut called the 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?"

One man, who did not want to be identified, walked out of the high school on Tuesday afternoon and quickly got into his car. "It was a sad day," the man said. "I was in there."


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