When Omar Thornton went to the Hartford Distributors warehouse Tuesday morning in Manchester, Conn., his lunch pail contained not one, but two 9mm handguns that he had often used at a nearby shooting range.
According to investigators, Thornton stashed the lunch box in a kitchen next to the office where, in minutes, he would learn if he was to be fired from his job as a driver for the company.
Once inside the office, the disciplinary hearing went about as smoothly as such things could, one person who was present said. The company, it turned out, had hired a private investigator, who had been tailing Thornton on his delivery route for weeks. They showed him videotape that apparently showed him stealing beer along his delivery route.
Thornton calmly remarked on the quality of the surveillance camera, signed a resignation letter and asked if he could get a glass of water from the kitchen. He got the guns instead.
He returned to the hallway and killed two of the men who had been in the hearing, one who had been defending his rights, the other who had been pressing the company's case. And over the next several minutes, at moments walking, at others in full chase, he roamed through the plant and the parking lot, shooting repeatedly.
Investigators and others with knowledge of his assault said Thornton deliberately shot some of his victims — eight fatally — but appeared to purposely spare others before ending the rampage by killing himself.
"He didn't have a master list saying these are the people he was going to go after, but based upon some of the people that were victims, it's probably likely that he was targeting some individuals," said Lt. Chris Davis of the Manchester Police Department. "He passed by many individuals and did not shoot them."
On Wednesday, Thornton's girlfriend, Kristi Hannah, 26, expanded on claims he was motivated by anger and frustration at what she said was the racist treatment he was subjected to at the company.
Officials with the union that represents workers at plant said Thornton never mentioned racial harassment but had indeed grown frustrated a year ago at the fact that he had not risen to become a driver of the company's delivery trucks, and that the local union president, Bryan Cirigliano, had successfully worked to secure that promotion for him.
"Our understanding is Bryan intervened," union attorney Gregg Adler said, adding that Cirigliano "assisted in getting him that training and he got the training and he became a driver, which is a preferred job for some people."