MANCHESTER, Conn. — 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 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 long-time 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, his uncle Will Holliday told reporters.
“He said, ‘I killed the five racists that was there that was bothering me,”’ Holliday said. “He said, ‘The cops are going to come in so I am going to take care of myself.”’
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 the past eight years. Her daughter told her that Thornton’s supervisors said they would talk to his co-workers.
Brett Hollander, whose family owns the distributor, denied any racial bias. And a union official said Thornton had not filed a complaint of racism with the union or any government agency.