A black warehouse driver who had complained of racial harassment at work went on a shooting rampage at a beer distributorship Tuesday after he was asked to quit, killing eight people before apparently committing suicide, authorities said.
At least two people were also wounded, one critically. The number of dead was confirmed by two government officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Authorities were notifying victims' relatives before confirming the number of deaths and the identities of those shot, state police Lt. J. Paul Vance said.
The gunman, identified by a company executive as Omar Thornton, had worked at the distributorship for a couple of years and had been called in for a disciplinary hearing, said John Hollis, a Teamsters official who was with company officials at the scene of the shooting. Hollis would not say why Thornton was being disciplined.
Police found Thornton with a fatal gunshot wound, Manchester police Lt. Joe San Antonio said. A police sharpshooter had approval to fire on Thornton when he killed himself, an official with knowledge of the scene told the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it.
Thornton called his mother after shooting his co-workers, his girlfriend's mother said.
"He wanted to say goodbye and he loved everybody," said Joanne Hannah, whose daughter Kristi had dated Thornton for eight years.
Thornton had complained to his superiors about harassment, Joanne Hannah said. A picture of a noose and a racial epithet had been hung on a bathroom wall at the beer distributorship, Hannah said. She said her daughter told her that Thornton's supervisors had not responded to his complaints.
"Everybody's got a breaking point," Hannah said, adding that her daughter was with Thornton on Monday night and had no indication he planned the shooting.
James Battaglio, a spokesman for the families who own the distributorship, said he had no immediate information about the allegations of racial harassment.
Kristi Hannah did not immediately return calls for comment.
About 50 to 70 people were in the warehouse during a shift change when the gunman opened fire around 7 a.m., said Brett Hollander, whose family owns Hartford Distributors. Adding to the chaos was a fire at the warehouse, about 10 miles east of Hartford, that was put out. Police did not know whether the fire was related to the shootings.
Among the victims was Hollander's cousin, a vice president at the company who was shot in the arm and the face. Hollander said he thought his cousin would 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," Brett Hollander told the AP.
Among the dead was Bryan Cirigliano, 51, of Newington, president of Teamsters 1035, according to the union secretary. The Hartford Courant identified another victim as Victor James, 59, of Windsor.
A few dozen relatives and friends of the victims gathered a few miles away at Manchester High School. Outside, people talked, hugged and cried. Others talked on cell phones.
The rampage was the nation's deadliest since 13 people were fatally shot at Fort Hood, Texas, last November. A military psychiatrist is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in that case.
And in Connecticut, a state lottery worker gunned down four supervisors in 1998 before committing suicide, and six people were killed in 1974 in botched robbery at a bakery in New Britain. Two men were convicted of that crime.
Police officers from numerous agencies and police and fire vehicles surrounded the warehouse, on a tree-lined road in an industrial park just west of a shopping mall.
The Hollander family is widely respected in Manchester, said state Rep. Ryan Barry, a lifelong resident. He said the family-owned Hartford Distributors sponsors local sports teams and the family is civic-minded.
"Everybody knows the Hollanders as good, generous, upstanding people," Barry said. "They're embedded in the community. Everyone knows Hartford Distributors. They treat their employees very well and they're part of the fabric of the town."
In a statement, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered condolences to the victims' families and co-workers.
"We are all left asking the same questions: How could someone do this? Why did they do this?" she said.
This program aired on August 3, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.