Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Associated Press-Conn. Gunman's Family Says Racial Bias Made Him Snap

photo courtesy of
(story reported by Everton Bailey JR.)

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) -- Omar Thornton sat calmly in a meeting with union representative and his supervisors as they showed a video of him stealing beer from the distributor where he worked.

Busted, he didn't put up a fight, company officials said. He quietly signed a letter of resignation and was headed for the door when he pulled out a gun and started firing - "cold as ice," as one survivor described it.

In the end, Thornton killed eight people, injured two, then turned the gun on himself in a rampage Tuesday at Hartford Distributors that union and company officials said they would not have anticipated from someone with no history of complaints or disciplinary problems.

Yet relatives say Thornton, 34, finally cracked after suffering racial harassment in a company where he said he was singled out for being black in a predominantly white work force.

"Everybody's got a breaking point," said Joanne Hannah, the mother of Thornton's longtime girlfriend.

After shooting his co-workers, Thornton hid as police moved in. He called his mother, who tried for 10 minutes to talk him out of killing himself, relatives said.

"He said the company was prejudiced and they pushed him," said Annette Levine, a cousin of Thornton's mother. "Those were the last words he told his mom: He loved her and they pushed him over the edge."

Authorities said they found him dead.

Thornton had said he found a picture of a noose and a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall, said Hannah, of Enfield, whose daughter Kristi had dated Thornton for eight years. Her daughter told her that Thornton's supervisors told him they would talk to his co-workers.

(click here to read the full Associated Press story)        

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