After a nine-month investigation there was no evidence of alleged racism against Omar Thornton, the shooter in last August’s shooting incident at Hartford Distributors according to a report by the Manchester Police Department released Thursday morning.
The 543-page report, which was released in 13 volumes on a compact disc, includes the case report, photos of the crime scene, audio of 911 emergency call and telephone conversations during the incident, in addition to images and personal information taken from Thornton’s cell phone and home computer.
The package also includes surveillance video from a private investigative firm that the distributor hired to follow Thornton that shows him removing cases of beer from the back of a delivery truck and loading them into someone’s vehicle.
What is not found anywhere in the report, however, is what police determined to be proof of any acts of racism or racist graffiti at Hartford Distributors, which Thornton had complained about to family and friends in the weeks prior to the shooting.
Thornton is reported to have told some of them that he once found a picture of a man hanging by a noose and racial slurs scrawled on a bathroom wall which he had taken pictures of with his cell phone, but police said that the state police’s forensic examination of Thornton’s cell phone found no such images.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t really see any earth shattering information,” Police Chief Marc Montminy said during a press conference Thursday. “What we found out is basically what we knew within the first 48 hours. Not much has changed. Of course we got a lot more detail, a lot more clarity, but the reality is there’s no earth shaking revelation in this report.”
On Aug. 3, 2010, Thornton, a relatively new employee at one of the state’s largest beer distributors on Chapel Road in Manchester, was summoned to an early morning disciplinary hearing with company and union officials over reports that Thornton was stealing beer along his delivery route. Thornton was shown video footage, taken by a private investigator, of him loading cases of beer from the back of a delivery truck into a private vehicle in parking lot.
He was given the choice to resign or be fired.
When the hearing was over, and Thornton had signed a letter of resignation, he then went into an adjacent lunchroom, pulled one of two 9mm handguns that he had concealed in his lunchbox, and began walking through the large warehouse shooting employees.
Nine people were killed – including Thornton who took his own life in a locked office as police closed in – and two more injured in the worst instance of workplace violence in Connecticut history.
Montminy said the closest the investigation came to finding any items related to Thornton’s claims of racism was a picture of President Barack Obama hanging from a noose drawn on a bathroom wall “many months” before the incident. Montminy said he did not know if Thornton had actually seen the drawing, but he had relayed to others that he was aware of it.
“Whether you consider that racial implications, political implications, or both, that was reported to have been there at one point in time,” Montminy said. “What we know is that when it was reported to administration, the administration had it removed.”
Montminy said that the investigation found no reports of Thornton having personal disputes with any employees at the company, but he said that he had a reputation “that his work ethic was lacking.”
“Others did not want to work with him because he was not a hard worker, and he did not seem to understand the concept of seniority,” Montminy said. “One of the things that was very prevalent in this particular facility is that everything was done by seniority based on the union contract.”
“When Omar became a driver, he became the junior driver, and what that means is the senior driver had the opportunity to pick his route, and then the next senior driver had the opportunity to pick his route, and the person who was least senior ended up with whatever route no one else wanted. Omar saw that as racism, others in the building believed it was a contractual obligation,” the chief said.
The report also contained greater information about Thornton’s personal life:
At age 34, Thornton had been hired by the distributor two years prior and made about a $48,000 annual salary.
He was born Omar Kinder, but had his name legally changed to Thornton after a paternity test.
Thornton “moved from school to school,” Montminy said, including several “special schools for children with problems,” but never graduated high school.
Thornton had recently broken up with his girlfriend, according to police, and had been fired from at least five previous jobs, at least one of those for allegations of theft.
Montminy said Thornton also appeared to be a “gun nut” and that police found thousands of photographs of guns on his personnel computer.
“He had literally thousands of photographs of weapons on his computer, but there was no plan, no written document that says this is what I plan to do and this is how I plan to do it,” Montminy said when asked if there was any evidence that Thornton had planned the shooting spree in advance. “There was nothing of that nature.”
After the press conference, Chris Roos, principal officer of Teamsters Local 1035, said that he was “very relieved” that the information had been officially released.
“I’m very relieved that it’s out there and that these gentlemen were not racist,” Roos said. “This was an individual that had issues as a child. He got caught stealing and couldn’t face the fact that he was a thief and did a terrible, terrible thing.”
Montminy said that the report took so long to compile because it involved several different law enforcement agencies and was a highly publicized incident, so the department wanted to make sure it had thoroughly examined every aspect of the investigation before releasing any information.
When asked for his opinion of what drove Thornton over the edge, Montminy attributed it to “mental impairment.”
“People who feel discriminated against don’t go out and kill eight people,” Montminy said.
The eight victims who lost their lives that day were:
- William Ackerman, 51, of Broad Brook;
- Francis Fazio Jr., 57, of Bristol;
- Louis Felder Jr., 50, of Stamford;
- Victor James, 60, of Windsor;
- Edwin Kennison, 49, of East Hartford;
- Craig Pepin, 60, of South Windsor;
- Douglas Scruton, 56, of Middleton, N.H., formerly of Manchester; and
- Bryan Cirigliano, 51, of Newington.
Two other people, Steve Hollander, executive vice president and general manager of the company that his been in the Hollander family for generations, and Jerome Rosenstein, a 77-year old non-union employee from West Hartford, were wounded in the attack.
Check back later today for updates to this article with more information and a video.