MANCHESTER, Conn. —A driver caught stealing beer from the warehouse where he worked agreed to resign his job Tuesday and then as "cold as ice," one of his victims said, went on a shooting rampage, killing eight people and injuring two before committing suicide.
Omar Thornton, 34, pulled a handgun after a meeting in which he had been offered the chance to quit or be fired. At the meeting, officials showed Thornton videotape evidence of the thefts, and he calmly agreed to quit, company vice president Steve Hollander said.
"Then he went out on this rampage," Hollander said. "He was cool and calm. He didn't yell. He was cold as ice. He didn't protest when we were meeting with him to show him the video of him stealing. He didn't contest it. He didn't complain. He didn't argue. He didn't admit or deny anything. He just agreed to resign. And then he just unexplainably pulled out his gun and started blasting."
Hollander said he thinks Thornton had guns stashed in his lunch box. The executive said two people standing right near him were shot in the head and killed, but he was only grazed in the jaw and arm.
"He shot at me twice and hit me a couple times. By just the grace of God, I don't know how he missed me," he said.
About 50 to 70 people were in the Hartford Distributors warehouse about 10 miles east of Hartford during a shift change when the gunman opened fire around 7 a.m., said Brett Hollander, Steve Hollander's cousin and a member of the family that owns the distributorship.
"I was on the phone with 911 and then I saw him running outside of my office window, shooting his gun, carrying his lunch box, which must have had his weapons in it," Steve Hollander said. "It doesn't seem real to me now, it seems like I'm watching a movie."
The shooting was over in a matter of minutes. The victims were found all over the complex, and authorities said they didn't know if Thornton fired randomly or targeted specific co-workers.
After shooting his co-workers, Thornton called his mother, said Joanne Hannah, the mother of Thornton's girlfriend.
"He wanted to say goodbye and that he loved everybody," she said.
Thornton was alive when police got to the scene but killed himself before officers got to him, Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy said. A police sharpshooter had approval to fire on Thornton, an official with knowledge of the scene told the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it.
Steve Hollander said Thornton killed "many good people today for absolutely no reason at all, people who've never said an unkind word to him.... He was just shooting at anyone that was near him and just cruelty beyond cruelty."